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EACEA National Policies Platform


5. Participation

5.7 “Learning to participate” through formal, non-formal and informal learning

Last update: 28 November 2023

Policy Framework

The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung, BMBWF) has issued the General Ordinance on Citizenship Education (Unterrichtsprinzip Politische Bildung, Grundsatzerlass 2015). This ordinance addresses the formal learning sector. It has also issued the Framework Decree on Intercultural Education (Grundsatzerlass Interkulturelle Bildung, 2017), which is depicted in Chapter 4.5.

Furthermore, during the development and implementation of the Austrian Youth Strategy, youth participation has played a central role as one of the four fields of action (see Chapter 5.5). The Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery is responsible for the Youth Strategy.

Formal learning

Civic Education in schools (Politische Bildung)

In Austrian schools, civic education is anchored in various ways. It is a teaching principle for all school types and levels as well as an independent or combined subject in school forms of secondary level 1 or 2. Moreover, school democracy should make its contribution to civic education. The basic principles, objectives and implementation of civic education in schools are set out in the Basic Decree for the Teaching Principle of Civic Education (Unterrichtsprinzip Politische Bildung, Grundsatzerlass 2015). In addition to Austrian standards, the decree also refers to the Council of Europe Charter on Civic Education and Human Rights Education. Citizenship education had first been introduced as a cross-curricular educational principle for all school types, grades and subjects in 1978. The broad mandate and the goals of citizenship education in schools are enshrined in the School Organization Act (§2 Schulorganisationsgesetz, SchOG). Implementing citizenship education broadly ensures young people’s right based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The three pillars of Austrian citizenship education are thus

  1. its inclusion in curricula as an independent subject or as a combined or cluster subject,
  2. its effect in the frameworks of school partnership and legal student representation,
  3. and as an interdisciplinary teaching principle that makes an important contribution to shaping society as well as to bringing about and developing democracy and human rights.

The Austrian Competence Model for Civic Education aims to build up (self-)reflective political awareness throughout school learning by means of exemplary approaches to problematic cases of politics. The life and experience world of the pupils is taken into account. Political education deals with contemporary political issues, their historical contexts and the possibilities of influencing decisions. In a time characterised by increasing complexity in all areas of life (e.g globalisation, media democracy, non-national or multiple identities of citizens, changed socialisation of children and young people, unequal distribution of power and resources between genders and generations), civic education provides an active contribution to the shaping of society as well as to the realisation and further development of democracy and human rights.

Historical competences

Political competences are closely related to historical competences, which aim at examining judgements with regard to their historical context of origin and the ability to recognise, analyse and reflect on one's own convictions in their historical conditionality. In this context, the project ‘Memory and the Present’ (Gedächtnis und Gegenwart’ on of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research for dealing with National Socialism and the Holocaust provides a comprehensive and methodological offer that promotes the transfer of historical knowledge and reflection on its significance for the present.

European Union education

Dealing with the European Union as well as with pan-European issues and topics is part of political education and, like the global dimension, contributes to a comprehensive view of the world. The network ‘Europe in Schools’ (EUropa in der Schule) supports teachers in the task of promoting awareness and responsibility for European and global interrelationships. Its offers include a guide. The Network is an initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research, the Representation of the European Commission, the Liaison Office of the European Parliament in Austria and is managed by Zentrum polis.

Extremism prevention (Schulpsychologie: Jugend und Extremismen)

In a pluralistic society, it is important to promote a responsible, critical, open-minded and tolerant attitude in schools. Pupils who come into contact with destructive ideologies and attitudes such as right-wing extremism, Islamism or anti-Semitism represent a major challenge for many teachers. All extremist tendencies are resolutely countered through long-term educational prevention work. In the case of a temporary readiness of pupils to follow destructive ideologies, a well-coordinated approach by teachers, school management, school psychologists and other experts is needed.

Goals of Citizenship Education as a Cross-curricular Educational Principle
  • offers an important contribution to the stability and development of democracy and human rights
  • empowers individuals to recognize social structures, power relationships and the potential for further development, and to examine underlying interests and values, as well as to evaluate and to change them if need be in terms of their own opinions
  • demonstrates democratic means of participation on all social and political levels and enables individuals to take an active part as individuals, as members of social groups, or as a part of society
  • promotes an interest in social issues and the readiness to participate in political life in order to advocate one’s own interests, the concerns of others, and matters of general welfare
  • addresses fundamental political questions, e. g. the legitimation of political power and its control, a just distribution of resources, a responsible and resource-friendly approach to nature and the environment, the equality of political rights
  • enables individuals to recognize, understand and evaluate different political concepts and alternatives, and leads to a critical and reflected engagement with one’s own values and the political beliefs of others
  • is based on democratic principles and values such as peace, freedom, equality, justice and solidarity; in this context, overcoming prejudice, stereotypes, racism, xenophobia and antisemitism as well as sexism and homophobia is a specific aim
  • highlights the role of Austria in Europe and globally, and communicates an understanding of existential and global relationships and problems of humanity
  • shows that a just order of peace and a fair distribution of resources are necessary for humanity’s survival, and that this demands a global, concerted effort, but also need to be understood as a personal obligation
Advanced school curriculum

With school year 2016/17 a new curriculum has come into force for the subject history and social studies/political education. Participation in politics is part of this subject. Thus, educational colleges and other institutions are providing a broad offer for teacher training regarding political participation correlating with the new curriculum.

Action Days on Civic Education (Aktionstage Politische Bildung)

The Austria-wide campaign of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research is coordinated by Zentrum polis. It takes place annually between 23 April (World Book Day) and 9 May (EUrope Day). New materials are presented throughout the event, e.g. on women’s rights, public health, young people’s participation, language rights, and freedom rights. Further materials include studies, videos, podcasts, padlets, workshops, and games.

Politics Encyclopaedia for Young People (Politiklexikon für Junge Leute)

A reference book for pupils with reliable initial information on political terms and topics. The encyclopaedia is primarily aimed at young people aged 12 and over. It is also a helpful tool for those who support children and young people in learning politics. The contents are not dictated by a curriculum as is the case with school books, but cover the entire world of politics. The encyclopaedia was commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research.

Non-formal and informal learning

Participative structures within formal education settings

As already mentioned in Chapter 5.3 in Austria, pupils’ representation is legally protected and anchored in the Federal Pupils' Representation Act (Schülervertretungengesetz). Representatives act on three levels, the school level, the regional level and the national level. Thus, pupils are represented in school councils.

Online Democracy workspace by the Federal Parliament (DemokratieWEBstatt)

The Federal Parliament’s online information point focuses on citizens, political and democracy education as a whole and enables pupils to learn more about politics, democracy, laws and elections. Its offers include a virtual walk through the Parliament, workshops, information on the Parliament and its members, an interactive political diary, a democracy encyclopedia, news and numerous games.

Youth information campaigns (Jugendportal)

The Austrian Youth Information Centres as well as their umbrella organization, the Federal Network of Austrian Youth Information Centres, run campaigns for civic education and against hate speech and extremism. Their Website includes a list of information points for civic education (Politsche Bildung) and against disinformation (Gib Fake News keine Chance).

The Federal Network of Austrian Youth Information Centres has also organized a ‘Get Active Team’ (Mitmachen) together with the Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery. Through this project, a group of young Austrians is enabled to take part in workshops of political participation, where they can weigh in their own ideas. This ‘Youth Participation Pool’ gathers a group of young people who regularly participate actively in projects and plans for young people and want to co-develop them with various organisations. It consists of around 25 young people aged 16 to 24 from all over Austria. Since November 2017, they participate in projects of ministries and organisations that aim to better reach young people and involve them in the implementation of measures. The added value for the administration and the organisations is that their measures that more tailored towards the needs of young people. At the same time, young people have the opportunity to contribute their opinions to different projects, to actively participate and to cooperate with political decision-makers.

WIK:I – What I can do through informal learning

WIK:I allows young people to collate and present their informally acquired skills. The benefit of compiling a portfolio is that young people gain an awareness of their informally acquired skills and a sense of direction for their subsequent education and career planning; above all, it empowers them when they are required to describe and present their skills (e.g. in the context of job interviews). WIK:I aims to promote empowerment and initiative.

UN Youth delegates

Each year, since 2012, Austria has sent one youth delegate to the UN General Assembly. In Austria, the National Youth Council (Bundesjugendvertretung) is responsible for the programme. Every country may send youth delegates to the General Assembly in order for them to represent the interests of children and young people worldwide. The design and mandate of the youth delegates regulated by every country and thus not uniform. In the run-up for their speech to the 3rd Committee of the UN General Assembly, Austrian youth delegates are tasked with obtaining input from Austrian children and young people by means of a participatory process. Furthermore, they shall raise broad awareness on the programme in numerous youth organisations. The Austrian representatives network with other youth delegates, address the General Assembly on youth issues and participate in plenary sessions and informal meetings.

Quality assurance/quality guidelines for non-formal learning

The comprehensive quality assurance processes and quality guidelines for non-formal learning are detailed in Chapter 10.4.

Educators' support

polis – The Austrian Centre for Citizenship Education in Schools

The Centre supports teachers in putting citizenship education into practice. It works under contract to the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research. The Centre provides teaching materials, acts as information and consultation platform, offers formation and continuing education for teachers, as well as workshops for students. Apart from knowledge transfer activities, the Centre also engages in awareness-raising and sensitisation for all issues concerning politics, democracy, human rights, consumer education and the strengthening of social skills. Its website ('study politics') is the most comprehensive Austrian online information platform for education on democratic citizenship, human rights, financial literacy and consumer rights. It provides advice on events, teaching material, basic principles of citizenship education, and information about the Citizenship Days.

polis aktuell - magazine for teachers

The magazine for teachers is published five times a year. In every issue, between 16 and 20 pages are dedicated to a particular topic of citizenship education intended for teachers and multipliers: an editorial piece with general background information on the topic, exercises for the classroom, tips for links and background reading.

News for Political Education (Nachrichten für Politische Bildung)

In loose succession, news for practice are presented by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research on its Website. They inform on new materials and events for civil education.

Brochure for political participation in open youth work

bOJA, the Federal Centre of Competence for Open Youth Work (bundesweites Netzwerk Offene Jugendarbeit) in Austria, developed and published a brochure for political participation in open youth work (Politische Parizipation in der Offenen Jugendarbeit). The aim of this publication is the collection of existing expert's assessments and methods for democracy and participation support in open youth work in Austria. One main topic is how young people can be activated to show more interest in participating in politics and democracy.

Best Practice Archive (Praxisbörse)

The online best practice database offers teaching suggestions, lesson plans and practical ideas for projects that can be carried out in the classroom generally. The entries can be sorted and examined according to the topic and school level. In addition, a keyword search feature is also available.

Austrian Society for Political Education (Österreichische Gesellschaft für politische Bildung, ÖGPB)

The Austrian Society for Political Education (Österreichische Gesellschaft für politische Bildung, ÖGPB) promoted by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research provides materials and funding for all kinds of projects related to political education.

Network ‘EUrope in Schools’ (EUropa in der Schule)

The Network supports teachers in the task of promoting awareness and responsibility for European and global interrelationships. Its offers include a guide. The Network is an initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research, the Representation of the European Commission, the Liaison Office of the European Parliament in Austria and is managed by Zentrum polis.

Education Group

The online platform provides information on citizenship education. It provides teaching material, link collections of various subjects such as e.g. citizenship education activities throughout Europe (networks and databases) and news on youth relevant topics.


The European network of reference and expertise in VET was established in 2002 by Cedefop, the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, with the objective of meeting the growing demand for information which enables comparisons between developments and VET policies in the EU Member States. Subsequently, national ReferNet teams with comprehensive VET expertise were set up in every EU Member State as well as in Iceland and Norway.

ReferNet Austria is a cooperation of three institutes that carry out research and development at the interfaces between education, qualification and the labour market. This consortium aims to disseminate information about the Austrian VET system, about research findings and education policies. The activities of ReferNet Austria are cofinanced by Cedefop and the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research.