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Federal legislation has played a prominent role in the formal education system. Laws that regard education have a de facto constitutional status of aggravated amendment (without constituting formal constitutional law), as such they can only be passed or amended by a two-thirds majority in parliament.
The ministries responsible for formal education are:
- Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung): holds the main responsibility for education
- Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs (Bundesministerium für Digitalisierung und Wirtschaftsstandort): partial responsibility for education due to the dual apprenticeship system
- Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (Bundesministerium für Landwirtschaft, Regionen und Tourismus): for Secondary Agriculture and Forestry Colleges (Agrarische Schulen) that train and educate students (currently around 4000) in the fields of agriculture and forestry
- Federal Ministry of Finance (Bundesministerium für Finanzen): with regard to the general budget
In addition, further ministries are involved in further education:
The Department for Families and Youth of the Federal Chancellery (Sektion für Familie und Jugend im Bundeskanzleramt): due to its responsibility for youth
There are many different stakeholders and actors involved. The main non governmental actors taking part in the development of policies in the field of education and training are:
- the Chamber of Labour (Arbeiterkammer, AK)
- the Austrian Economic Chamber (Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, WKO)
- the Austrian Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB)
- the Chamber of Agriculture (Landwirtschaftskammer, LK)
- the Federation of Austrian Industries (Industriellenvereinigung, IV)
Framework of competence on education
The federal government is responsible for education. The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung) is in charge of the Austrian school system. Its responsibilities in the area of education cover the entire school system: from primary school to the completion of secondary school education, as well as university colleges of teacher education and universities. Adult education and lifelong learning also fall within the sphere of responsibility. The federal government sets the broad framework, while detailed legislation is enacted by the nine federal states.
Thus, the governance and administration of the entire education system are divided into four levels:
- federal level (Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung)
- federal state level (9 provinces)
- local level (municipalities) and
- school level (due to some autonomy)
The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung) is responsible for the Austrian school system:
- General school system (elementary schools, general secondary schools, novel secondary schools, polytechnical schools, educational institutions in the area of Kindergarten pedagogy and social pedagogy, and special-education facilities)
- Vocational school system (vocational schools, middle and higher technical, commercial and artisan schools, the business school system and human-professional middle and secondary schools)
- European and international educational cooperations
- Adult education
- Educational research and quality development
- Matters of the teacher's colleges
- Diversity politics and linguistic politics, political education, environmental education, consumer education and road safety education, school psychology and educational consultation as well as health promotion
- School partnership
- Personnel matters of the AHS, the BMHS and the administrative staff
- School management
- Service and pay legislation
- Controlling for teachers and school laws
- School maintenance
- Teaching means and media education
Federal State level
Within each Federal State, the Regional Education Board is responsible for implementing federal policies and for supervising schools in educational and technical matters.
Education Directors (Bildungsdirektoren)are appointed by the Federal Minister upon proposal of the head of the provincial government. The Directorate of Education (Bildungsdirektion) organises the whole school management for its federal state, despite the split competence between the federal and the provincial level. It thus constitutes a common federal and provincial authority and is responsible for the implementation of the entire school law within its federal province. The Directorate of Education's responsibility ranges from federal teachers and provincial teachers, external school organisation and federal management staff to school supervision, quality assurance and education controlling. This authority, which has been introduced by the 2017 educational reforms, has brough about a significant unification of competence in the implementation of education politics.
Examplarily, the Vienna Board of Education is the Directorate of Education for the federal province of Vienna. It runs more than 700 schools – primary to upper secondary - in Vienna. Its European Office is responsible for the development, implementation and supervision of a wide range of language learning initiatives, as well as projects that aim at an increased the exposure to and understanding of the European dimension. It also constitutes the contact point for international and in particular European affairs, such as the initiation, planning, and implementation of projects and the development and supervision of modern language initiatives.
Municipal authorities areinvolved in maintaining schools and there are also some powers exercised at the school level.
Almost all matters relating to the maintenance of general compulsory schools (except staffing) have been assigned to local authorities but are supported by the federal state. Schools have some autonomy for budgetary matters and up to a point, are able to adapt curricula to local needs.
With the educational reform of 2017, schools have been granted increased autonomy. These extended freedoms shall create the conditions for self-responsible and opportunity-providing autonomous schools, which are the most fit to achieve the targets defined in the educational standards and assessed in the standardised maturity and diploma examinations. The reform was based on the idea that often there is no best approach to achieve certain educational aims in school development. Thus, by giving a higher priority to local school development, schools can be developed depending on their particular needs and starting points. Quality management instruments are implemented in order to achieve the targets.
Each single school independently chooses its pedagogical concepts and organisational forms in order to live up to the needs of its pupils, the training and strengths of its teachers, and the particularities of the place and region.
The autonomy includes possibilities in these areas
- of flexibilised teaching time (de-standardising of 50-minute units) and opening hours
- the formation of student groups based on content and subject-related aspects (class, year, interdisciplinary, project-oriented)
- the development of unique pedagogical concepts (e.g. design of teaching organisation)
- cooperations with (supra)regional and international (extra)school partners
- the selection, development and in-service training of staff
- the use of novel teaching methods (project teaching, open forms of learning, free work, use of technology, peer learning, networked coordinated content)
- competence-oriented performance assessment
Adult education is also regulated by the federal states and municipalities. The municipalities are responsible for community education or may participate in common-benefit institutions for further education. The federal states are responsible for the funding of adult education. The social partners (AK, LK, ÖGB, WKO - as mentioned above), too, are public bodies responsible for (adult) education. They own institutions for further education and are involved in negotiating collective agreements for providers of education (professionals/employees and institutions/employers). The ten associations of adult education providers as defined by the Adult Education Promotion Act (Bundesgesetz über die Förderung der Erwachsenenbildung und des Volksbüchereiwesens) are brought together by an umbrella association: the conference of adult education in Austria (Konferenz der Erwachsenenbildung Österreichs, KEBÖ). The association is a partner of the Ministry for Education, Science and Research in implementing focus points of adult education policy.
Members of the KEBÖ are
- the working group of Austrian educational centres (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Bildungshäuser Österreich, ARGE BHÖ),
- the Austrian vocational training institute (Berufsförderungsinstitut Österreich, BFI),
- the association of public libraries in Austria (Büchereiverband Österreichs, BVÖ),
- the forum for catholic adult education in Austria (Forum Katholischer Erwachsenenbildung in Österreich, FORUM),
- the rural continuing education institute (Ländliches Fortbildungsinstitut, LFI),
- the network of Austrian adult education institutes (Ring Österreichischer Bildungswerke, RÖBW),
- the Austrian Economic Society (Volkswirtschaftliche Gesellschaft Österreich, VG-Ö),
- the association of adult education for Austrian trade unionists (Verband Österreichischer Gewerkschaftlicher Bildung, VÖGB),
- the association of Austrian Adult Education Centres (Verband Österreichischer Volkshochschulen, VÖV),
- the Austrian Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Economic Promotion (Wirtschaftsförderungsinstitut der Wirtschaftskammer Österreichs, WIFI)
A great number of NGOs and other non-governmental providers of adult education are not listed in the Promotion Act of 1973 and may therefore not benefit from basic financial support. As part of the Ö-Cert certification, an up-to-date registry of adult education providers has been created (Verzeichnis der Ö-Cert Qualitätsanbieter). This list of certified providers encompasses many non-governmental providers, associations and NGOs.
The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung) establishes curricular frameworks by means of a broad consultation process. In some fields, the social partners (AK, LK, ÖGB, WKO - as mentioned above) are included in such consultations. Thus, cross-sectorial cooperation takes place. Furthermore, the above mentioned ministries and regional authorities competent in certain educational and youth affairs cooperate in regulating and implementing Austrian educational policy.
In Austria, there are several institutions which carry out quality assurance in the formal education sector. Due to the high density of regulations, the Federal Ministries, in particular, are competent for quality assurance in education and training. The bodies competent for the respective qualifications in the Austrian education system are also responsible for their quality assurance.
Ö-CERT is an overall framework of quality for adult education providers. In effect since 2011, it’s a nationwide quality trademark and regulated by law. Providers that apply for Ö-Cert have to fulfill the Ö-Cert-basic-requirements and introduce a Quality Management System (QMS).