Levels or IB?
Education in Austria by Dr. Walther Hetzer
Located in the very centre of Europe Austria provides a variety of educational opportunities to international families seeking residence here or moving into the neighbouring new EU membership countries.
A good knowledge of German is essential for success in the Austrian public (state) schools. Some bi-lingual (German/English) primary schools and a few bi-lingual schools for lower secondary education have opened in the last years, mainly in Vienna. Opportunities for bi-lingual education in the upper secondary range are limited to a few Austrian gymnasia. Many of these schools have waiting lists.
Austria has a long tradition of excellent vocational schools. One example is the outstanding training for hotel management and tourism. A knowledge of German is essential.
With many international organisations and the United Nations based in Vienna there are several international schools located in the capital. The Vienna International School, the American International School and the Danube International School all provide a choice of various programmes of the International Baccalaureate, the AIS Vienna also offers Advanced Placement examinations. Graduates from these schools may also obtain the equivalency of the Austrian "Matura" and thus be entitled to continue university studies in Austria. The Vienna Christian School provides an American based Christian education. Since all these schools also have waiting lists for some grades early contact is recommended. There are several schools with links to other national educational systems, such as the Russian School, the Japanese School and a large Lycee Francaise.
There is a bi-lingual Austrian Gymnasium with a very international orientation (LISA) in Linz, Upper Austria. The American International School Salzburg provides an American international curriculum and boarding facitilties. In the summer of 2006 the St. Gilgen International School, close to Salzburg, will open as an international boarding school, offering the Middle Years and Diploma programmes of the International Baccalaureate. These two schools are in an excellent position to provide boarding for families posted into the new EU membership countries, which is close enough for regular visits home.
A word of caution. Families of students with severe learning differences will find the provisions for special educational needs in Austria limited. There is superb support available in German but all of the mentioned schools have limitations as to the assistance they can provide.
With a long tradition of outdoors education, superb sports and a rich musical and cultural life, Austria provides a safe and stimulating environment to international families. If the whole family also makes the effort to learn German and get involved in local activities, a move to Austria may turn out to be a wonderful opportunity.
About the Author
Dr. Walther Hetzer is the Founder of St. Gilgen International School close to Salzburg..
by Dr Hetzer of St. Gilgen International School.