The Austrian school system has extensive and differentiated guidance offers. The aim of guidance is, generally, to ensure smooth processes at school, to intervene in the event of conflict situations or problematic circumstances, to develop proposals for solutions together with those who are affected and to enable appropriate help and individual support for pupils in case of need. The following provide support:
Early childhood education
BESK (DaZ) KOMPAKT: BESK (DaZ) KOMPAKT is a binding instrument for recording language competence in the educational language German of children with German as their first language (BESK KOMPAKT) and of children with German as their second language (BESK (DaZ) KOMPAKT). On the basis of the results, a possible individual need for language support will be identified, which should initiate early language support for the children in order to ensure that they have a sufficient command of the educational language German when entering primary school.
- Career guidance classes and IBOBB teachers: In 1998 “career guidance” (Berufsorientierung, BO) became compulsory for all pupils in seventh and eighth grade at lower secondary level. In 2009 the term was extended to “information, advice and guidance for education and work” (Information, Beratung und Orientierung für Bildung und Beruf, IBOBB). IBOBB teachers support pupils to help them deal with their own career aspirations, provide information on school-based and company-based education and training pathways, indicate possibilities and occupational fields, create job profiles and connect the world of training with the world of work. (cf. “Career guidance”)
- Counselling teachers and tutors and psychagogues (Beratungs- und Betreuungslehrer/innen und Psychagog/innen, BBP): These provide pupils at all compulsory schools (with the exception of part-time vocational schools) with guidance and support in emotionally and socially challenging development stages. BBP develop individual support concepts for pupils and classes with learning and behavioural problems, also accompany teachers and parents in difficult social situations, cooperate in the design of development-promoting learning conditions, intervene in crisis and conflict situations and prevent violence.
- Students’ counsellors and educational counsellors: Students’ counsellors (at compulsory and general education schools) and educational counsellors (at VET schools) provide all pupils at secondary schools and their parents with information on education programmes, entry requirements and possible final qualifications.
- Learning facilitators at upper secondary level: Individual learning support (individuelle Lernbegleitung, ILB) is a support measure which became legally enshrined as part of the upper cycle. Pupils who, from the tenth grade on, receive an early warning can voluntarily make use of an ILB. Learning facilitators accompany pupils with learning deficits during an agreed period in order to support them, for example, so they can develop individual learning strategies, motivation to learn and personal responsibility for their learning process, develop self-confidence, assess and manage their learning/exam competence and use their powers of concentration or also improve their perseverance.
- Informal competence measurement (Informelle Kompetenzmessung, IKM): IKM informs teachers about the learning status of the whole class and provides an overview of the competences of the individual pupils. On this basis, support measures can be initiated. Furthermore, there is a “chance pass” (Chancen-Pass) from the beginning of the 7th grade. This helps pupils make the right choice of educational path. “Talent checks” are available for primary school pupils.
- Peer mediation: Peer mediation is carried out in schools by pupils who are trained to constructively resolve current conflicts among pupils. Peer mediation is based on the realisation that conflict settlement is often accepted better by the parties to the dispute if it is carried out by (older) fellow pupils than if adults intervene.
- Psychological counselling: Educational psychologists are contact partners for psychological questions and problems of pupils, parents, legal guardians and teachers (cf. below).
- School doctors: They ensure that health impairments and needs of pupils at all schools are recognised and that corresponding responses are taken.
- School social work: School social work is available as a low-threshold offer and network for pupils (mainly at secondary schools) but also for parents and teachers with the aim of carrying out preventive measures.
- Youth coaching (cf. also chapter 12.3)
- As a consequence of the refugee crisis, a special support and guidance offer for refugees was launched in 2016 by the Ministry of Education, Science and Research: it consists of “mobile intercultural teams” which are made up of multilingual pedagogues, social workers or psychologists and act as a hub for establishing a regional network with authorities from the social area, aid for children and youths and also the asylum system and aid organisations. Their tasks include:
- integration of refugee children at Austrian schools,
- targeted support of schools and teaching staff to help them incorporate and integrate refugee children and youths in the school and classroom community,
- advising parents and supporting the family environment of refugee children,
- prevention of marginalisation and (ethnic) conflicts,
- ensuring adequate (German language) support for refugee children in schools,
- supporting and complementing educational psychology and also other support systems at schools.
The School Psychological and Educational Counselling Service Unit is a psychological establishment integrated in the school system which is available to pupils, their parents, teachers and officials from the school supervisory authorities to help them in their search for problem-preventing, problem-reducing and problem-solving insights, experiences and their implementation in the respective field. In addition, it promotes individual, social and organisational development at school as an area of life by providing psychological information, counselling, support and treatment. The use of all services is voluntary, confidential, unbureaucratic and free of charge for the beneficiaries.
The School Psychological and Educational Counselling Service Unit employs around 150 psychologists, who are available at the 76 guidance centres set up throughout Austria for all people and institutions involved in the school-based education process. The tasks of the School Psychological and Educational Counselling Service Unit are regulated in a decree from 2018 and comprise
- psychological counselling, analysis and expert activity in the problem and question area school (e.g. choice of school pathway, integration, questions connected with special educational needs measures, readiness for school, learning problems, behavioural problems, personal difficulties and crises);
- psychological support, psychological care and psychological treatment (and here – according to the particular possibilities and requirements – psychotherapeutic methods are also used); objective: personality development, prevention, intervention, rehabilitation;
- promotion of cooperation in the area of school;
- psychological research in the area of school;
- cooperation in the planning and coordination of initial, continuing and further education offers in the school system;
- informing the public about significant psychological findings and their practical application and also about important service offers and contributions of the School Psychological and Educational Counselling Service Unit
Educational psychologists are psychologists with a university degree in psychology who are employed at the boards of education as part of a service relationship with the Federal Government.
Inside the school system career guidance is based on three pillars:
- Career guidance class (Berufsorientierung, BO class): This became mandatory in 1998 as a “compulsory exercise” for a total of 32 lessons in the seventh and eighth grade (cf. also “Academic guidance”). BO can be taught either as a cross-curricular subject (i.e. the curriculum contents are taught as part of instruction in the other compulsory subjects), in project form or as its own subject. Since 2009 BO been understood more holistically as “information, advice and guidance for education and work” (Information, Beratung, und Orientierung für Bildung und Beruf, IBOBB). Here the school has to support pupils in many different ways for education/training and career choice processes. The pupils need to gain practical insights into the world of work and employment in particular via so-called “real-life encounters” (i.e. days or weeks of practical work experience, company visits, etc.).
- Student counselling: pupils have to be supported in their decision-making process by means of individual information, guidance and supervision (cf. also “Academic guidance”).
- Work placements and excursions: the pupils need to be given as many opportunities as possible to gather practical experiences in the world of work and employment, e.g. with real-life encounters.
Outside the school system there are many establishments which offer career guidance:
- Public Employment Service Austria (Arbeitsmarktservice, AMS): AMS provides educational counselling and career guidance for anyone who is interested and in particular for unemployed people. Its own career guidance centres (Berufsinformationszentren, BIZ) provide extensive information on the world of work and employment. As well as printed brochures and information material, AMS also provides online information databases for various target groups (e.g. matriculation certificate holders, apprenticeship post seekers, people interested in continuing education and training, older people, women). Information about job offers and working conditions in other European countries is provided by the EURES database and special EURES advisors.
- Social partners: The Chambers of Labour and trade unions mainly offer educational counselling and career guidance via their adult learning institutions: the Vocational Training Institutes (Berufsförderungsinstitute, bfi). The economic chambers and their CET establishments, the Institutes for Economic Promotion (Wirtschaftsförderungsinstitute, WIFI) also have their own educational counselling and career guidance centres (Bildungs- und Berufsinformationszentren) which offer advice on education and job questions. These offers are aimed at youths and increasingly also at adults and in most cases are free of charge. As well as personal advice, all social partners also publish well prepared printed and online materials on important topics of career guidance, set up informative websites (e.g. the career guidance tool of the economic chambers), participate in job information fairs and undertake special initiatives, e.g. in order to persuade girls to take up technical professions.
- The apprenticeship offices, located at the economic chamber in every province, also have to undertake educational counselling and career guidance tasks according to the Vocational Training Act. Their activities in this field mainly concern information about apprenticeship training options.
- Career guidance services for the 7th/8th school year are also provided by the Federation of Austrian Industries through its regional groups. These services include seminars and company visits for pupils and teachers in companies of the region, support courses to promote interest in technical and scientific careers, company practice for teachers of career guidance, information about training schemes and apprenticeship places in industry, appearances at various career information fairs, etc.
- The focuses of the Austrian Association for Education and Economics (Österreichische Volkswirtschaftliche Gesellschaft) are the interfaces and transitions between school, training and work, career guidance and support in the job-finding process, in particular also in future-oriented and innovative occupational fields, business know-how and entrepreneurship.
- Many other establishments provide educational counselling and career guidance for specific target groups, e.g. the guidance centres for women and girls set up in the provinces, various information and guidance services for people with disabilities and for migrants.
- In Austria there are also an increasing number of private, commercial guidance centres which provide educational counselling, information on jobs and career guidance often in conjunction with job exchanges, training for job applications and other services.