6.3 Preventing early leaving from education and training (ELET)
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The national strategy on preventing early leaving from education and training (Nationale Strategie zur Verhinderung frühzeitigen (Aus-)Bildungsabbruchs) has been developed by the former Federal Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture in cooperation with the former Federal Ministry of Economy, Families and Youth, the former Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection, and the social partners in 2012. The national strategy preventing early leaving from education and training is part of the Austrian Youth Strategy and of the Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan. It encompasses the policy fields of prevention, intervention and compensation, and comprises numerous measures in order to enable young people to successfully complete their education. Austria’s first National Reform Programme of 2005-2007 had already included several measures and initiatives to reduce early school leaving and youth unemployment, with a focus on post-qualification to promote vocational education and training.
The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung), Federal Ministry of Labour (Bundesministerium für Arbeit), the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs (Bundesministerium für Digitalisierung und Wirtschaftsstandort), the Department of Family and Youth at the Federal Chancellery (Sektion für Familie und Jugend im Bundeskanzleramt), and the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection (Bundesministerium für Soziales, Gesundheit, Pflege und Konsumentenschutz) cooperate closely on the implementation of the strategy to tackle early leaving.
Additionally, many institutions are involved in avoiding drop-outs from the education system, bringing young people back into education, or integrating them into the labour market and providing social and vocational support. The Public Employment Service (Arbeitsmarktservice, AMS), the Federal Social Office (Sozialministeriumservice, BSB) as well as the social partners figure prominently. National measures are complemented by measures of the Federal States.
Lifelong learning strategy
With the lifelong learning strategy (Strategie zum lebensbegleitenden Lernen), developed in 2011 by the four responsible Ministries (Education, Social Affairs, Economy and Science) under participation of relevant stakeholders, Austria aimed to significantly reduce early leaving from education and training until 2020, in accordance with the EU 2020 core goals. The goal is further pursued in the present strategy with an emphasis on prevention and target-group-specific interventions.
The LLL-Strategy is based uopn the four basic principles of gender and diversity, equal opportunities and social mobility, quality and sustainability, and performance and innovation. According to its five guidelines it shall provide life phase orientation and Life Long Guidance, put learners at the centre, be competence oriented, and encourage participation.
The ten lines of action of the LLL-Strategy:
- strengthening pre-school education and upbringing as a long-term basic prerequisite
- basic education and equal opportunities in the school and initial training system
- a free catching up on basic qualifications and ensuring basic competences in adulthood
- developing alternative transition systems into working life for young people
- measures for reorientation in education and occupation and consideration of work-life balance
- strengthening community education approaches through municipal institutions and organised civil society
- promoting learning-friendly work environments
- further education to secure employment and competitiveness
- enriching the quality of life through education in the post-professional phase of life
- procedures for the recognition of non-formally acquired knowledge and competences in all sectors of education
Education until 18 (Compulsory Formation Act)
In 2016, the Compulsory Formation Act (Ausbildungspflichtgesetz) was passed. Everyone under the age of 18 is obliged to attend school, vocational training or a preparatory programme, even after completion of the nine year compulsory schooling period.
Compulsory education or training is at the heart of the Education until 18 (AusBildung bis 18) initiative. It shall prevent early school leaving and reduce youth unemployment, while providing all young people with equal opportunities and a good start into (working) life.
Furthermore, the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung) aims to increase the level of education of all pupils.
The National Strategy to avoid ELET takes the interlocking of (school)system-related and personal measures into account. The systematic-structural, school location-specific, and individual-oriented measures are understood as both preventive, and quality-protecting and improving approaches. To guarantee successful interlocking of the three spheres system – school – person, measures are adjusted on the federal provincial and local level.The structural measures, which were initiated in the last years, are the core of the strategy for the avoidance early leaving from education and training.
- Nationwide installation of New Middle Schools (Neue Mittelschule, NMS)
- Introduction of the standardised competence-oriented final exams
- Further development of the daycare at schools
- Implementation of educational standards
- Introduction of the new upper secondary level with competence modules
- Expansion and quality assurance of the occupational orientation and educational consultation
- Reading support
- Professionalisation of school management and school supervision
- Introduction and implementation of systematic quality management in the general school system
- School and teaching development through quality assurance (SQA, QIBB)
- A lowering of school-internal drop out rates
- An Early warning system and a decrease of negative completion
- Apt remedial teaching
- Mentoring, Tutoring, Peer-Mediation; violence prevention programmes; school social work in chosen locations
- Interdisciplinary communication, cooperation and coordination of the psychosocial consultation systems
- Youth coaching
- Language promotion and language classes for refugees
- Inclusion of the parents as an educational partner
- All-day schooling or school day care (Ganztägige Schulformen oder schulische Tagesbetreuung)
- Specific case management
- Apprentice coaching within the triangle "parents-education company-vocational school"
- Compulsory mediation whenever a danger of ELET is given
- School social work
- AusbildungsFit (formerly: production schools)
Literacy: strengthening of reading abilities
Reading support strategies are aimed at mediating the base competence of reading, above all on the ability of understanding and reflecting on texts. As reading competence is the basis for any success in other educational processes, it constitutes an essential contribution to the successful completion of (higher) education and professional training. Youngsters without literacy abilities often lose social connections due to difficulties in participating in social processes. Strengthening literacy directly contributes to the prevention of poor school experiences and results and thus to the avoidance of early school leavers. The focus in growing reading ability lies on individuals and groups with special needs that may e.g. arise from their social, linguistic or ethnic origin. Additionally, the strengthening of teachers is important in order to improve their ability of diagnosing reading competence issues and supporting their improvement. Thus, within the scope of the new pedagogue’s education professionalisation, such offers are provided.
Supporting pupils with migration background
The support of pupils with migration background is important, as they are more likely to be affected by educational disadvantages and early school leaving. The focus is set on mediation of the teaching language and support of their reading competence. The linguistic competence of both their mother tongue and the teaching language is to be consequently promoted. Besides the extension of mentoring projects, the support of schools is important in dealing with linguistic and cultural diversity. This entails professional advice, professional guidance of school development processes, and the supply of information and training aids.
- Compulsory, free kindergarten year for five-year-olds (since 2010)
- Determination of language skill levels and corresponding promotion of the German language in kindergarten (since 2008)
- Introduction of a joint federal state-wide education frame plan for elementary educational institutions (2009)
- German language promotion for pupils with mother tongues other than German at general secondary schools and vocational schools
- Promotional course "German" for extraordinary pupils at general compulsory schools (Allgemeine Pflichschule, APS) and at the higher general-education school, lower cycle (AHS-Unterstufe) (§8e SchOG) in the scope of eleven weekly hours
- Expansion of the mother-tongue teaching project 'school multilingual' (Schule mehrsprachig): approximately 33,900 pupils (school year 2014/15) profit from this measure. As more than 20% of Austrian students make daily use of another language than German, more than 400 teachers are employed on teaching roughly 24 languages
- Initiatives for linguistic-sensitive lessons in polyglot classes as well as for the promotion of multilingualism
- School books and training aids for German-as-a-second-language-teaching and mother-tongue teaching as well as bilingual dictionaries for all pupils with mother tongues other than German
- Twice a year the magazine TRIO provides material for joint reading and teaching in three languages (German, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Turkish)
- Information sheets on the subject migration and school (six issues)
- Nationwide advanced training set "interculturality and multilingual facility in schools" (Interkulturalität und Mehrsprachigkeit in der schulischen Praxis)
- Anchorage of linguistic education (multilingualism, linguistic basics) in the curricula of the educational colleges
- Transitional class for refugees (no longer of compulsory school age) in approx. 44 schools all over the country
- Brochure "Young refugees at Austrian schools" (Flüchtlingskinder und -jugendliche an österreichischen Schulen) and Folder "Welcome to the Austrian school" (Willkommen in der österreichischen Schule) for children parents - in twelve languages
- Project "mobile intercultural teams" for the support of schools regarding the integration of young refugees.
- With the Refugee-College (Flüchtlings-College) Vienna implemented a separate school type for refugees to prepare young people between 15 and 21 years for a job or further training
School social work
School social work aims to reduce or prevent school absences and dropouts. Currently, projects run in secondary schools in the regions Carinthia, Lower Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Vorarlberg and Vienna.
These projects were launched in the new program period of the ESF 2014 – 2020 and are to be carried out at schools with a high index of social disadvantage. Nationwide interlinking and exchange on experiences and good practice examples, the development of suitable quality standards, and cooperation models between school social work and other psychosocial support systems are envisioned.
The strategy to prevent violence in schools (Strategie zur Gewaltprävention - Gemeinsam gegen Gewalt)
Experiencing violence in school has long-term effects on pupils' mental health and life satisfaction. A positive environment that prevents aggressive behaviour and discrimination, addresses violence, does not leave students alone with their thoughts, and offers support and help has a preventive effect. The aim is to create a school environment that makes all students feel safe. A climate of tolerance and appreciation should enable students to grow into independent and responsible people.
Vocational diploma (Berufsmatura: Lehre mit Reifeprüfung)
Apprentices are offered the opportunity of vocational training (apprenticeship) with the advantages of a Matura (final exam). This can open up better job opportunities for young people, and enables "non-traditional" students to study at universities and Fachhochschulen and participate in lifelong learning.
Promotion of talents (Begabungsförderung)
The promotion of students aims at supporting, promoting and accompanying pupils in their holistic development and the achievement of their potential. It is based upon the contamporary principle of educational individualisation. Giftedness first develops in interaction with a stimulating social and intellectual environment and is thus inherent as potential in every human being. The promotion of giftedness focuses on teaching and learning settings that consistently enable a development of this potential. It is a joint effort by parents, educational institutions and extracurricular institutions.
"Information, counselling and guidance for education and careers" includes all measures for educational and vocational guidance at school. Decisions on education and training paths shall be made according to talents, independent of family, social, gender and regional background. Pupils are supported to follow their individual best educational and vocational path towards becoming young self-reliant people. Basic competences for making autonomous decisions are conveyed in compulsory school subjects and career orientation lessons, practical experience is made available through projects, and individual information and counselling is provided by student and educational counsellors.
In the difficult phase of deciding on their future education and career path, young people and their guardians need professional counselling and support. The offer of youth coaching (Netzwerk Berufliche Assistenz) is based on the principle of voluntariness and is free of charge. It aims to plan the ideal next steps on the basis of young people's strengths and abilities, thus enabling a successful transition into future working life. Youth coaching is also intended to contribute to the personal and social stabilisation of young people's situations.
Open Youth Work
The three central approaches of Open Youth Work are the focus on open space and leisure time, target groups and the social environment. The offers are developed in cooperation with young people and are based on their living environments and needs. Specific target groups are reached by means of gender-reflected children and youth work, intercultural work, and work with cliques and peer groups.
The objectives characterising Open Youth Work contribute to tackling ELET:
Open Youth Work is a place for recreational activities, communication, information, learning, experience, development, advice, orientation, help and support. It thus has a preventive impact. The continued development of the personality of young people is actively supported, with a focus on independence, personal responsibility, and empowerment. The focus on “learning”, “knowledge” and “experiencing” deepens the social, personal, cultural, intercultural, political and gender-related skills.
Open Youth Work expands young people’s action competence by specifically initiating and promoting educational processes. Cognitive education is an essential aspect in this context. The absorbing, processing, reflecting on and acting on information is promoted. The measures are funded on the federal, federal state and local level. Beside these levels, important stakeholders and co-operation partners for providing extracurricular offers are the social partners, the public employment system and regional institutions.
Reading mentor project (Pilotprojekt LesepatInnen)
In order to awaken the joy in reading and the interest in books, volunteer reading mentors visit schools once or twice a week in order to read with participating students. This provides a cosy and stress-free atmosphere to transmit reading skills.
Lifelong learning Strategy
With the national strategy on lifelong learning, Austria aimed to clearly reduce ELET according to the EU 2020 core aim. With these aims, the clear lowering of the dropout rate was strived for. There is no monitoring of the implementation of the strategy itself, but some of the individual measures are being evaluated. In 2018, the proportion of early school leavers was 7.8% (EU-27: 10.2%). Beyond 2020, Austria will work on pursuing this goal and strategy.
National education report (Nationaler Bildungsbericht 2018, NBB)
The regular national education reporting is a legally anchored core task of the Federal Institute of Educational Research, Innovation and Development of the Austrian School Sector (Bundesinstitut für Bildungsforschung, Innovation & Entwicklung des österreichischen Schulwesens, BIFIE). The report is written by experts of the Austrian education research landscape and issued every three years since 2009. It provides a comprehensive basis for the politico-educational discussion and controlling of public education. The NBB is thus to serve as an empirical and scientific basis for evidence-based decisions. The NBB consists of a two-volume parallel structure: Volume 1 (the educational system in the mirror of data and indicators) showases the total statistic volume of data to the education area, while Volume 2 (analyses of politico-educational central topics of interest) discusses current politico-educational questions. Topics are analysed and assessed on the basis of available data and research results.
Monitoring and quality assurance
The quality initiative vocational training (QualitätsInitiative BerufsBildung, QIBB), is a VET Quality initiative of the General Directorate for Vocational Education and Training (GD VET) of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) to implement systematic quality management (QM) in the Austrian vocational school sector. The objectives pursued with QIBB are the assurance and further development of school and teaching quality as well as the quality of administrative services at the executive levels of schools, provincial governments and the federal government. The supra-company training, for instance, has been evaluated on a regular basis. For schools, analogously, the 'quality management school' (Qualitätsmanagement Schule) is implemented.