Education and Schools in Vienna
Expats moving to Vienna with children will need to make important decisions, specifically whether to send their children to an international school or to a public bilingual school.
Primary factors to consider are the cost of school fees and the curriculum taught, as well as the location of the school.
As there are many options for education and schooling in Vienna, it is important to know what is available in order to make an informed decision.
Public schools in Vienna
At standard public schools in Vienna the lessons are taught completely in German. Most expat parents believe that the language barrier is too high a hurdle for their children to overcome.
The public school system
Schooling in Austria, which is compulsory between the ages of 6-15, is separated into Volksschule, primary school (four years), and Gymnasium, secondary school (eight years). The latter is further divided into lower secondary school (four years) and upper secondary school, with vocational or academic training being offered for the final four years.
Schools are usually co-educational and do not require their students to wear uniforms. Registration takes place in March, and most schools have an open house (Schnuppertag) in February, which is when parents can speak to teachers and directors. Children are not zoned according to where they live - they can attend school anywhere in the city so long as they have been accepted.
Public school hours for primary school are 7.45am to 12pm, with some days extending to 1pm. Afterschool care is called the Hort, which is either in the school or nearby. They provide a hot lunch and afterschool care for a small fee.
Many expats believe that the national curriculum in Austria is not challenging enough. There is a belief among Austrians that up to a certain age, children learn best through play and that they should not be bothered with formal learning such as reading in kindergarten. This hands-off approach gradually diminishes and by the time the child reaches secondary school the curriculum is quite rigorous. At this point, most children have developed a fine grasp of reading, writing, tactile arts and maths.
Bilingual schools in Vienna
While standard public schools are not a feasible option for most expats who only plan on spending a short time in the city, bilingual schools are a good alternative.
At bilingual schools in Vienna, students are taught in both German and English. These are effectively public schools, so fees are low or non-existent.
However, bilingual schools are popular amongst expats and local Austrians alike, so competition for places is high. There are just a handful of these schools in Vienna so expats are advised to apply for a place as soon as possible.
International schools in Vienna
There are several private or international schools in Vienna where students are taught in English. They are highly regarded but very expensive. The benefit of attending an international school is that it allows students to continue studying from their home curriculum, they can mix with fellow expat students and parents can meet others in a similar situation to themselves.
Many expats choose to live in the same neighbourhood as the school their child attends. The transition to a new city is made easier due to the resources and facilities available at the school. However, some would say that the cultural experience of being in a foreign city is limited by expats surrounding themselves with other expats.