Early childhood education
Guidance in institutions for early childhood education is provided by kindergarten teachers. The development talks (Entwicklungsgespräche) are particularly important in this respect. These are individual exchanges between kindergarten teachers and parents (legal guardians) about current topics and interests of the children as well as about changes in the different areas of development. They are offered regularly to all parents and are based on observations made in in ECEC facility as well as in the family environment. The aim is to sensitize the parents for their child and to coordinate the support of the child’s development. The content of the conversations is confidential. Development talks are a binding offer, for parents they are voluntary.
Guidance and support are essential not only during kindergarten, but especially when transitioning from kindergarten to primary school. With the School Law Amendment Act 2016, this transition, including the transfer of information in the context of student enrollment, was reorganised (cf. german comment). This should ensure targeted support without delay on the basis of the knowledge gained in kindergarten about the development, skills, potential, interests and talents of the children. The transition process is organised in such a way that, based on cross-institutional collaboration (kindergarten and primary school) and joint discussions with parents or legal guardians, the child's level of development / learning is recorded and described. In the last year of kindergarten, which is compulsory for all children, the development talk focuses on the transition to primary school. Parents receive important information about the development and skills of their child and are thus supported in their decision regarding the access of the school system. In addition, as part of the school enrollment phase, there is the possibility of a transition interview (Übergangsgespräch), in which not only the parents but also representatives from kindergarten and school are present (cf. german brochure).
Students’ and career counsellors (Schüler- und Bildungsberater/innen)
From secondary level onwards, pupils and their parents can consult specially trained students’ and career counsellors who essentially perform two tasks (cf. basic ordinance on student and career counselling and german comment):
- Information as an orientation aid and preparation for decision-making: Counsellors offer information about further educational pathways. Details as to education and training programmes, admission requirements and qualifications are offered to students and parents within classroom lectures and parent evenings, through information material, external experts who are invited for presentations, field trips and visits to companies.
- Individual counselling and organisation of support: Counsellors offer individual advice to both parents and students. This may refer to career issues and/or personal problems (e.g., learning or behavioural difficulties). They may also provide information on other facilities where help and support can be obtained. Students’ and career counsellors are a first point of contact which is available if difficulties arise.
The professional requirements for working as a students’ and career counsellor are a teaching post, several years of teaching experience and the completion of a relevant course. For this course, which is offered at university colleges of teacher education (Pädagogische Hochschule, PH), there are uniform framework specifications with regard to target group, entry requirements, educational goals, course duration and course structure (cf. german course handout). It comprises a total of 12 ECTS (6 ECTS basic training, 6 ECTS intensive training).
In addition to the professional requirements, students’ and career counsellors must have the following personal skills:
- High level of empathy
- Tolerance and appreciation for the individuality of students
- Ability to quickly establish relationships of trust with students
- Ability to work in a team as well as willingness to cooperate and network with the teaching staff, the school management and extracurricular institutions
- Ability to take initiative and act independently
- Willingness to acquire and constantly deepen sufficient knowledge about school, educational and professional areas, learning psychology, special education, behavioral problems, developmental / life crises, etc.
The selection and appointment of teachers for the function of students’ and career counsellors is carried out by the school head with the involvement of the teaching staff. Students’ and career counsellors are obliged to attend at least one regional or national service meeting and / or training event every year.
Career guidance teachers (Berufsorientierungslehrer/innen, BO-Lehrer/innen)
In addition to students’ and career counsellors, there are other teachers at schools with specific tasks in the area of guidance. These include career guidance teachers who teach “career guidance” (Berufsorientierung, BO, cf. german handout).
In the Austrian school system, career guidance is offered in the 7th and 8th grades of all types of schools on the lower secondary level as a “compulsory exercise” covering 32 lessons. BO can be taught either as a separate subject, subject-integrated (i.e. teaching time for other subjects is dedicated to the content and goals of BO) or in project form. The basis for the lessons is the BO curriculum valid for the respective school type (cf. german BO curricula). When implementing the curriculum, great value is placed on clear and direct experience. For this purpose, real encounters in the form of company visits, visits to upper secondary schools and career information centers as well as professional interviews are available. In addition, the students take part in work shadowing days / weeks, during which they receive a realistic insight into operational processes.
BO teachers hold a teaching qualification for lower secondary schools. In addition, a course for educational and professional orientation to the extent of 12 ECTS at university colleges of teacher education (Pädagogische Hochschule, PH) must be completed. For this course there are framework specifications by the Ministry of Education, the specific design is the responsibility of the respective PH.
As an aid for teachers there is a lot of teaching material provided by Public Employment Service, social partner organisations and the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (e.g. BBO-Tool).
Career guidance coordinators (Berufsorientierungskoordinator/innen, BO-Koordinator/innen)
In addition to the BO teachers, there is also the function of career guidance coordinators (BO coordinators) at schools (cf. german handout). These have the following tasks:
- Support of the school management in the creation and further development of a location-based implementation concept
- In-school coordination in the implementation of BO measures
- Cooperation with extracurricular institutions
- Documentation and evaluation together with colleagues
The school head selects and appoints a teacher for the BO coordination function. The professional requirement for this activity is the completion of a course in career guidance coordination. This is offered at the university colleges of teacher education (Pädagogische Hochschule, PH) according to a uniform framework curriculum with a total of 9 ECTS. Course subject cover, among others, legal regulations (especially for real encounters), basics in project management, moderation, interviewing, documentation and evaluation. An essential part of the course is the development / implementation of a location concept as well as the initiation and support of professional orientation as a process.
In addition, the following personal skills must be proven to be appointed as a BO coordinator:
- Interest in issues relating to educational pathway and career orientation
- Willingness to participate in questions of school development
- Ability to work in a team and willingness to cooperate with the teaching staff and the school management
- Ability to take initiative and act independently
- Organisational skills
- Ability to reflect
- Sensitivity to gender and diversity issues
- Openness to cooperation with extracurricular institutions
- Openness to modern communication and information technologies
- Willingness to participate in regional working groups and training events.
BO coordinators are required to participate in at least one regional or supraregional working group meeting or a relevant advanced training event each year. This is an important quality assurance instrument, as the demands of the world of work and the wide range of choices in educational and professional paths require continuous refreshment of knowledge.
Educational psychologists (Schulpsycholog/innen)
Under the heading "Schulpsychologie-Bildungsberatung" (educational psychology and career guidance), the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research runs 67 information centres which offer psychological advice and educational guidance provided by 151 educational psychologists throughout Austria (cf. Activity Report 2020/2021). All pupils, parents and teachers can make use of this public service free of charge (cf. german handout).
Educational psychologists have a qualification in psychology. Training to become an educational psychologist is done in-service by means of an in-house training programme at the workplace and also a training course which has to be completed (cf. german handout)