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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.6 Social inclusion through education and training

Last update: 28 November 2023

Educational support

Special Needs Education

According to the National Action Plan on Disabilities, the school reform package of 1993 laid down that integration in schools is a task of primary schools. In 1996, the integration of disabled children into secondary stage I was made legally binding. Children and young people with special educational needs can either attend a specialised school or in an integrative form in the mainstream school at the choice of the parents or guardians. The special educational needs are determined either at the request of the parents or ex officio by the Education Directorate. A pupil is deemed to have special educational needs if, as a result of a not merely temporary physical, mental or psychological functional impairment or impairment of sensory functions, he or she is unable to follow lessons at primary school, secondary school or polytechnic school without special educational support and is not exempted from attending school (Section 8(1) Compulsory Schooling Act, Schulpflichtgesetz 1985).

The specialised school comprises ten branches with nine school levels each, with the last school level serving as a vocational preparation year. With the approval of the school authority and the consent of the school owner, special school attendance is possible for a maximum of twelve school years. Inclusive education is oriented towards quality standards and opens up diverse opportunities for disabled and non-disabled children and young people to experience learning together. Pupils with special educational needs can be taught in inclusive primary schools, middle schools, lower grades of general secondary schools, polytechnic schools and one-year domestic science schools. Pupils with special educational needs also have the possibility to complete a voluntary 11th and 12th school year at general schools - with the consent of the school owner and the competent school authority.

Adequate special educational support for pupils is provided through the application of specific curricula. Qualified teachers are employed both in special schools and in inclusive teaching. The aim of individualised teaching is to enable pupils to acquire a basic general education, to cope with further vocational training or to attend secondary schools. Moreover, teachers who are competent in sign language are needed to teach deaf children and young people. Courses at teacher training colleges and universities are being offered for this purpose.

In 2011, a participative strategy for the implementation of the UN Disability Rights Convention in the Austrian school system was initiated. To this end, dialogues, conferences, information and discussion events have been held. The most important areas of action and measures identified until now relate to:

  • The pedagogic and organisational development of schools and lessons
  • The improvement of regional support structures
  • Support based on needs and requirements
  • The training of teachers
  • Scientific guidance

In the form of the ‘inclusive region’ approach, a way to realise this in practice has been developed: the federation, the federal states and communities initially tested inclusive school and teaching programmes in pilot regions and then extend the latter over time. The following areas of action were identified:

  • The quality of the establishment of special educational needs should be further improved (e.g. in order to differentiate it more clearly from language support measures)
  • Improvements in the field of counselling for the parents and guardians of children with special needs
  • Raising public awareness, especially among parents of children without disabilities.
  • Increased in-service training courses on Austrian sign language for teachers and also in the care and support of pupils who are hard of hearing
  • Care should be taken to respect the principle of inclusion in the field of educational media and media education
  • The participation in European projects (e.g. MIPIE–Mapping the implementation of policy for inclusive education) is intended to help to identify data which is relevant to planning, to improve the data situation and ultimately to increase the inclusion rate. Participation in the project ‘Teacher Education for Inclusion across Europe’ is being used for the development of teacher training in Austria
German Support Classes for learners with a migrant background (Deutschförderklassen)

Pupils who are unable to follow lessons due to insufficient German language skills have been taught in own German support classes or courses parallel to lessons since 2018/19 in order to ensure equal opportunities and better integration into the class group. The aim is the early and intensive learning of the language of instruction German, so that these pupils can be taught together in class as soon as possible. The assignement to a German language support class/course is based on a standardised test procedure (Measuring Instrument for Competence Analysis – German, MIKA-D) that is uniform throughout Austria. The test takes place during school enrolment. It is determined whether the pupil has an exceptional status and whether he/she is assigned to a German language support /class. Further examinations of exceptionally classified pupils with the test then take place at the end of each semester in order to determine which form of German language support the student will need in the following semester. Therefore, depending on the MIKA-D test result, it is possible to transfer to regular classes with a German support course or to the status of a regular pupil. This system shall avoid repeating school grades and the associated loss of career opportunities should be avoided as far as possible. It has been under discussion for its (dis)advantages in confront to integrated teaching.

Free school books and public transport for all pupils

These policies inter alia benefit disadvantaged students and foster their school careers. They are detailed in Chapter 4.6.


The former Ministry for Science, Research and Economy developed the National Strategy on the Social Dimension of Higher Education (Nationale Strategie zur sozialen Dimension in der Hochschulbildung), published in February 2017.

The government’s programme for 2013-2018 stipulated that measures were to be devised ‘to support the compatibility of work and study and to provide non-traditional access to the entire higher education sector’. Amongst other things, these identified the target groups of underrepresented groups, which were to be broadly defined on the basis of the findings of the 2015 Social Survey of Students.

Underrepresented groups include:
  • Students whose parents do not have higher education entrance qualifications or who come from lower socio-economic backgrounds (currently around 40%).
  • Underrepresentation of women or men in particular degree programmes (e.g. women in technical studies, men in veterinary medicine studies)
  • Students from particular regions/federal states
  • Students with migrant backgrounds (with an Austrian entrance qualification)
  • Students with a disability and/or chronic illness

In addition, attention was paid to groups with specific needs, where particular indicators could, over the course of a student’s educational biography, change and/or become combined in new ways.

Groups with specific needs include:
  • Students with young children or other care responsibilities
  • Students with a disability and/or chronic illness
  • Students with delayed entry to higher education (i.e. at least two years since leaving school or ‘second chance’ education)
  • Students in employment

The National Strategy on the Social Dimension of Higher Education lays out three target dimensions with three action lines and practical measures for each.

  1. More inclusive access
    1. Improve quality and accessibility of information materials
    2. Outreach activities and diversity-sensitive course guidance
    3. Recognition and validation of non-formal and informal competencies
  2. Avoid drop-out and improve academic success
    1. Ease entry into higher education
    2. Structures of study programmes and quality of teaching
    3. Increase compatibility of studies with other areas of life
  3. Create basic parameters and optimise the regulation of higher education policy
    1. System-related issues in higher education systems
    2. Integrate the social dimension into strategic planning for higher education and create appropriate governance structures
    3. Further development of student support schemes

The basis for the development of strategies and measures for equality and diversity by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research is the observation and control of the implementation of legal requirements for equality and anti-discrimination at schools, universities and research institutions (monitoring) as well as the indicator-based implementation of equality processes. This is done, for example

  • within the framework of impact-oriented budgeting
  • in performance agreements with universities and non-university research institutions
  • in the development and financing plan for universities of applied sciences
  • in the course of the target and performance plans/resource plans with the universities of teacher education
  • in the course of the resource, target and performance plans with the education directorates
Tuition-free public universities and study allowance

These measures account for a system of university education that is also affordable for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. They are detailed in Chapter 4.6.

Non-formal educational programmes

Non-formal educational programmes offer special opportunities for people with disabilities. The design of the curriculum is far more flexible than in formal education, as are the certification processes, which can be structured according to the needs of the participants. What is still lacking in this context are clear rules on the binding nature and transparency of the respective educational processes with regard to their usefulness on the employment market and for more advanced courses. Non-formal education offers for people with disabilities should be assigned to the National Qualifications Framework (NQF, a system in which all education and training levels are related to each other, thus enabling comparison). This should lead to an improvement in their usability in employment and to greater recognition of these qualifications in society and the labour market. The national youth council BJV, ant the umbrella organisation for open youth work bOJA and youth information centres BÖJI provide a large variety of participation projects among their member organisations.

Measures within the National Action Plan on Disabilities

  • The principle of accessibility should be given greater emphasis in the award of subsidies
  • Creation of a framework for NQF Corridor 2 with the involvement of disabled persons’ associations, the establishment of corresponding structures and the assignment of at least 15 qualifications in the field of NQF Corridor 2

Many offers of non-formal education also specifically aim to include people from disadvantaged communities.

Social cohesion and equal opportunities

Gender equality in schools

Gender equality at schools entails that gender is not a central influencing factor in the development of competences, in the shaping of self-concepts, and in further educational paths. However, analyses show that gender-related attribution processes and expectations still lead to existing potentials not being sufficiently used and developed, which is why the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research takes measures at various levels. The focus is on reducing horizontal gender segregation in the choice of education, strengthening gender equality work and building gender and diversity competences at all levels of the education system in line with the department's tripartite gender equality goal:

  • Fix the institution: strengthening gender-responsive change processes within organisations
  • Fix the knowledge: promoting the integration of the gender dimension in pedagogy, research and teaching
  • Fix the numbers: Reducing gender segregation at all levels
Basic Decree ‘Reflective gender pedagogy and gender equality’ (Grundsatzerlass „Reflexive Geschlechterpädagogik und Gleichstellung)

The Basic Decree provides schools with an overarching orientation framework on how issues of gender equality - against the background of a pluralistic society characterised by religious, cultural and social diversity - can be taken into account at the subject and teaching levels as well as at the level of social relations. The teaching principle shall contribute to the development of a professional and reflective approach to the dimension of gender in school, on the basis of the constitutionally anchored equality and anti-discrimination mandate. All genders have the same right to individual and self-determined personality development.

The teaching principle should contribute to the active discussion of related socio-political questions and value attitudes. School should provide a neutral framework in which all children and young people can discuss the topics that concern them in an age-appropriate manner in the sense of a lively culture of debate and free of religiously or culturally based prohibitions on thinking. All facets of patriarchal role norming and gender-related unequal treatment - whether sexism in advertising or so-called ‘honourable behavioural requirements’ for girls of some communities - should be discussed.

In this sense, the teaching principle should help to

  • reduce prejudices and expand individual scope for action by dealing with commonalities and differences and overcoming gender stereotypical allocations,
  • reduce prejudices against boys or young men who are interested in training in the education and health sectors and better activate existing potentials of girls and women in the STEM sector,
  • make reflected decisions regarding their own career and life planning,
  • enable a higher degree of self-determination in the area of their own health in the sense of the WHO and the UN Sustainable Development Goals,
  • develop differentiated thinking beyond bipolar, narrowed gender images and thus to have a preventive effect against homophobia,
  • minimise gender segregation in education, the world of work and society and thus improve the life and career prospects as well as participation opportunities of young people

Students should be able to

  • have age-appropriate knowledge about gender relations in the past and present in different social systems,
  • identify conditioning factors for gender inequalities and how they can be changed,
  • recognise that social roles are not determined, but that they are socio-culturally shaped and can therefore also be changed
  • be willing to reflect on the influence of stereotypes in school, family, peer groups, and their own communication and behaviour
  • develop readiness to stand up for equal opportunities and equality in everyday life (civil courage to stand up against stereotypes, sexism and homophobia and other forms of discrimination)
  • deal constructively with each other and with gender differences and conflicts or misunderstandings arising from them in everyday life,
  • analyse social realities, also on the basis of data, and argue their own positions with regard to the topic of equality,
  • pursue individual educational and professional interests - also against stereotypical expectations on the part of the social environment     
Prevention of violence and mobbing in schools (Gewaltprävention)

Pupils who are victims of violent attacks by their classmates often still have to deal with the consequences many years later. A positive environment that prevents aggressive behaviour and discrimination, addresses violence, does not leave children and young people alone with their fears and fantasies, and offers support and help, has a preventive effect. The aim is to create a school environment that makes all young people feel safe. A climate of tolerance and appreciation should prevail in which they can grow up to be independent, responsible people.

In this context, a charter was adopted in 2017, on the guiding principles of effective and sustainable prevention work:

  1. Zero tolerance against violence

Creating a school culture of equality in which violence has no place. A clear attitude, reliability, safety and respectful interaction are important and need everyone’s contribution.

  1. Recognising diversity and a culture of mindfulness

Diversity is an opportunity and enrichment. School communities stand for tolerance and openness towards 'being different' and for the individual's right to be heard.

  1. Identifying and rejecting discrimination

It is important to us to name discriminatory language and actions as such over and over again and to consistently adopt an appreciative attitude towards diversity and to exemplify this.

  1. Strengthening the self, social and system competence of educators

Continuous work is made for pedagogical professionalisation. Internal school training on topics such as quality development, team building, knowledge about different forms of violence, tolerance towards individual identity and personal lifestyles, dealing with digital media and dealing with communication and language support educators.

  1. Talking to each other

Cooperation with the pupils, the school partners and the school and extracurricular support systems, in planning and implementing evidence-based measures for violence prevention and health promotion are important.

Intercultural education in schools (Interkulturelle Bildung)

Intercultural learning has been anchored as a teaching principle in the curricula of all general educational schools (Allgemeinbildende höhere Schulen) since 1992. The social, cultural and linguistic diversity in our globalised society leads to an increasing heterogeneity of life plans and family realities, which is reflected in our classrooms. Intercultural education enables both teachers and students to respectfully deal with diversity in a multicultural society. It directs the view to both historical and current processes of social change, such as migration movements from the global south to Europe, migration processes in rural regions and population increase in urban areas, diverse biographies and life plans, and intergenerational and social aspects. At the same time, it responds appropriately to the challenges and opportunities that arise in the school system.

The Framework Decree on Intercultural Education (Grundsatzerlass Interkulturelle Bildung, 2017) issued by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research, developed in 2017 together with experts from various disciplines, describes the content and implementation of the teaching principle of intercultural learning. It helps to ensure that learning together can succeed in an appreciative and respectful atmosphere in everyday school life.

Intercultural education empowers students to

  • perceive diverse lifestyles and biographies as a social and school normality and to deal respectfully with different ways of life (developing tolerance and empathy)
  • recognise that one's own biography shapes one's experience, thinking and acting (awareness of the conditionality of one's own ways of seeing and acting)
  • analyse one's own (life) history and to recognise both how it came about and how it can be changed
  • perceive and analyse social, cultural, linguistic and other similarities and differences and to recognise their significance
  • trace changing affiliations and multiple identities in one's own and other biographies
  • adopt a critical and appreciative basic attitude - as a basis for civil courage and a constructive culture of conflict without cultural attributions
  • develop a calm approach to heterogeneity (practice in the handling of stereotypes and (foreign) attributions)
  • recognise and question exclusionary, racist and sexist statements and behaviour and to take a stand against them, and to recognise how power is exercised and domination legitimised through cultural attributions
  • look at social developments in a society shaped by migration and individualisation from different perspectives, to form opinions and to present points of view
  • apply intercultural competences in all subject areas as well as in everyday life in and out of school
Ressources (Schule Mehrsprachig: Ressourcen)

The thematic online platform of the Federal Centre for Interculturality, Migration and Multilingualism (NCoC Bildung im Kontext von Migration und Mehrsprachigkeit, BIMM) offers educators and everyone interested multimedia information and know-how on intercultural education and other topics. Topic packages include ‘Intercultural Learning’ and ‘Othering’.

The conference on interculturality and multilingualism in school practice is aimed at educators of all subjects. The 18th conference on interculturality and multilingualism in school practice in 2019 was held on the topic of ‘Culturally Reflective Learning’.

Regional initiatives for schools (Schule Mehrsprachig: Regionale Initiativen)

Since the end of 2017, the Private University College of Teacher Education Linz (Upper Austria) has been offering advice and workshops at local schools with the initiative ‘Gelingendes Zusammenleben – GeZu’. The work on intercultural attitudes and the development of methodological and action competences at the school location is supported with various offers that can be chosen depending on the occasion and include, among others, counselling, in-school teacher training, and information.

In Styria, there are concrete support offers for schools in the form of the Mobile Support Teams (MUT) of the Province. Teachers receive support and advice on intercultural issues or further training in workshops.

Integration ambassadors visit schools

As a project of the public Austrian Integration Fund (Österreichischer Integrationsfonds), ‘Together Austria’ (Zusammen Österreich) sends integration ambassadors to Austrian schools and sports clubs. They can indicate ways for a successful togetherness, meet prejudices in open talks and create motivation among pupils with and without migration background to perceive their chances in education and occupation. Since 2011, successful people with a migration background have been acting as role models for children and young people through the programme.

Free tutoring in the City of Vienna (Volkshochschulen)

Leisure time education institutions provide free tutoring for all pupils at schools as a measure of the City of Vienna. Through this continuous learning, young people can receive help in further developing their learning techniques and learning strategies.

Youth coaching (Jugendcoaching)

The predominant aim of youth coaching is to keep pupils who are at risk of exclusion motivated and in education and training. As young people with a migration background are at higher risk of exclusion, this is an important measure to provide equality. Youth Coaching aims to provide guidance and support to young people, who are facing difficulties in continuing or choosing their education pathways or who did already drop out of the education system/labour market. It shall thereby reduce the number of early school leavers. Youth coaching is a support option for young people at the end of compulsory schooling to find the individually suitable occupation. Young people at risk of leaving school early receive special support. The service is also open to young people with impediments or special educational needs.

Youth Coaching is a very important measure with regard to early intervention as well as activation and (re-)integration. It also co-operates with prisons to support and prepare young delinquents to re-enter the education system. It targets both pupils in their last year of compulsory schooling and drop-outs up to the age of 19 (youth with disabilities up to the age of 25). Thus, suitable perspectives are indicated to young people at risk of social exclusion by counselling, guidance and case management.

Youth Coaching has been installed in 2012. The network NEBA (Netzwerk berufliche Assistenz) is run by the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection (Bundesministerium für Soziales, Gesundheit, Pflege und Konsumentenschutz). It offers youth coaching in order to improve the educational background and the job market opportunities of young people by preventing early training dropouts and supporting young people with their transition from school to employment. Professional consultation and assistance is offered based on the principle of the voluntariness and free of charge. 

Apprentice coaching (Lehre statt Leere – Lehrlingscoaching)

Apprentices and education companies that require consultation or counselling during the apprenticeship can apply for sponsored and confidential accompanying coaching. The programme runs under the brand ‘Apprenticeship instead of hollowness (German word-play: Lehre statt Leere).

Initiatives and programmes regarding Gender and Diversity by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research, the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection and by the Federal Chancellery
Open Youth Work

The three central approaches of Open Youth Work are the focus on open space and leisure time, the focus on target groups and the focus on the social environment. The offers are developed in cooperation with the target groups and are based on their living environments and their needs. They allow them to make experiences in their leisure time, without any pressure to perform or any strict orientation on efficiency. The orientation on specific target groups among young people is visible in the gender-reflected children and youth work, in intercultural work, as well as in work with cliques and peer groups. The common space children and young people share with other social groups can also serve as a starting point for relevant services. Therefore, in addition to location-related Open Youth Work, mobile youth work represents an important approach in creating relations to young people at those places they frequent, from residential areas and parks to railway stations, and to offer them services that are based on their needs.

National Youth Council (Bundesjugendvertretung, BJV): Girls and Women, Gender Mainstreaming and Diversity

The BJV regularly launches new projects to empower and to encourage young women. Demands of the BJV are formulated in the position paper women-political demands (Positionspapier Frauenpolitische Forderungen) and in the position paper gender mainstreaming (Positionspapier Gender Mainstreaming).

The BJV has dealt intensely with different facets of the diversity and has presented the position paper on diversity and solidarity. As young refugees have the right of protection, for help and an appropriate environment for their age, the BJV offers workshops (together with AKNOE) and provides a toolbox on the topic migration and asylum.

Youth Information Centres

The youth information centres provide folders and workshops on a broad range of topics all over Austria. These initiatives are partially funded by the state.