Key policy developments
Under the direction of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research and the Federal Ministry of Labour, and with the participation of several other federal ministries, the nine provinces, social partners, scholars and scientists, an extensive consultation phase formed the basis for a strategy for the implementation of lifelong learning in Austria. The dynamics in the economy and society, globalisation and therefore the continuous further development of knowledge, skills and competences have made this strategy evident. An important indicator here is that learners have to be given the best-possible support irrespective of origin and social status.
With consideration of developments at European level, there were already key documents created back in 2007 Guidelines for a Coherent LLL Strategy (Leitlinien einer kohärenten LLL-Strategie) and Take the Opportunity of Learning (Chance Bildung) and 2008 Knowledge – Opportunities – Competences. Strategy on the implementation of lifelong learning in Austria (Wissen – Chancen – Kompetenzen. Strategie zur Umsetzung des lebenslangen Lernens in Österreich) which were incorporated in the lifelong learning strategy.
The Austrian Lifelong Learning (LLL) Strategy - LLL:2020 was adopted on 5 July 2011 by the Council of Ministers. Within the framework of LLL:2020 different policy areas work together towards a common goal: gradually implementing goals and actions identified in the strategy by 2020.
LLL:2020 is an instrument to look at different actions at various stages of learning, from early childhood education and care to school and higher education, continuing/adult education and training and education in the post-professional phase of life. It pursues a holistic approach, which cannot only be reduced to educational issues, but incorporates different policy areas of education, integration, the labour market, economy as well as social, financial and regional issues and aims at concerted action.
National LLL concept and goals
The LLL:2020 strategy focuses not on formal responsibilities and competences of authorities, lobbies and institutions but on combined action towards common goals. All other administrative and operational responsibilities aim to reach these goals.
The Austrian LLL:2020 strategy is based on five guidelines which complement each other. These are:
- Life stage orientation: by designing educational processes independent of age and appropriate to the various age groups
- Placing focus on learners: with interlinking or flexibilisation of places and forms of learning
- Lifelong guidance: support by means of advice
- Competence orientation: in order to make qualifications transparent and comparable
- Promotion of participation in LLL: with incentive and support measures
In all guidelines gender equality and social justice, quality, sustainability, efficiency and innovation are taken into consideration.
Political ideas have been developed from these guidelines and also specific targets and packages of measures (laws, partial strategies, setting of standards, financial support and many more) have been drawn up (cf. ‘Outcomes to date’). These so-called ‘action lines’ comprise:
- Strengthening of pre-school education and childcare
- Basic education and equality of opportunity in the school system and the initial vocational education and training system
- Free 1st) acquisition of basic qualifications and 2nd) safeguarding basic competences in adult age
- Expansion of alternative transition systems to working life for youths
- Measures for enhanced re-orientation in education and the world of work
- Strengthening of ‘community education’ approaches
- Promotion of learning-friendly work environments
- Continuing education and training to secure employability and competitiveness
- Learning in the period after retirement
- Procedures for the recognition of non-formally and informally acquired knowledge and competence
A precise elaboration of all action lines, their particular aims and measures are outlined in the document LLL:2020 - Lifelong learning strategy in Austria
Relation to EU policies
The Austrian LLL:2020 strategy takes into consideration various documents and developments of the European Union, e.g. ‘2015 Joint Report of the Council and the Commission on the implementation of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020). New priorities for European cooperation in education and training (2015/C 417/04)’ and ‘Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning.’ The latter acts as a continuous reference framework through all ten action lines.
In 2016 the NQF Act came into force. It is developed to provide a legal basis for the Austrian NQF and to legally define the procedure of referencing formal and non-formal qualifications. In June 2017, the first qualifications were officially referenced. (cf. chapter 2.5). On the basis of the NQF, Austrian qualifications can be referenced to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF).
In close coordination with the process for the implementation of the NQF, in Austria a validation strategy for non-formal and informal learning has been developed. The aim of this strategy is extensive recognition of non-formal and informal learning processes and therefore an increase in the accessibility and permeability of the Austrian (continuing) education and training system.
Responsibilities, coordination and consultation
The coordination and operational control of the LLL strategy are undertaken by the ‘LLL:2020 Task Force’. It consists of representatives of the federal ministries which are relevant for the LLL strategy (Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research, and Federal Ministry of Labour). For the concrete implementation of the LLL strategy, work packages are defined for the ‘action lines’, responsibilities (e.g. Federation, provinces, social partners) are determined and a timeframe is specified. The level of implementation is measured by set benchmarks and is recorded annually in a report (cf. ‘Dissemination Measures’).
The ‘National LLL:2020 Platform’ ensures that all relevant stakeholders are included in the implementation and guarantees the implementation of the work packages. It consists of representatives of the aforementioned federal ministries and of provinces, towns, municipalities, social partners, higher education establishments, Public Employment Service Austria and academics.
The implementation of the national LLL strategy is monitored annually in order to give progress reports and to identify potential obstacles. This monitoring forms the basis of an annual report to the Council of Ministers, which thereupon draws political conclusions.
Outcomes to date
To date there have been a lot of developments that are promoted within the framework of the Austrian LLL:2020 strategy. Work to date focuses – inter alia – on the following reforms (see also the new developments the last 2 years in chapter 14 ‘Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments’):
- Concerning all education sectors:
- Adoption of the NQF Act and also implementation of NQF service units for providers of non-formal qualifications (cf. chapter 2.5)
- Elaboration of a validation strategy for non-formal and informal learning
- Early childhood education
- Framework plan for early language support
- Adaptation of training in early childhood education; establishment of a professorship for early childhood education at an Austrian university
- Transition from kindergarten to primary school is designed as a school entry phase
- Development of a quality framework on the development of children at a primary school (‘education compass’)
- Strengthening of inclusive education
- Expansion of psychosocial counselling at and for schools
- Expansion of all-day school forms and establishment of the compusory secondary school
- Implementation of a course system at upper secondary level in order to be able to support pupils individually (‘new upper cycle’)
- Implementation of competence-oriented curricula
- Inclusion of ‘Entrepreneurship Education’ in the curricula of VET schools and colleges
- Reformation of the training of teachers (cf. chapter 9)
- Quality assurance by setting educational standards and taking other quality assurance measures, e.g. standardisation of the matriculation exam and standardised matriculation and diploma exam (standardisierte Reife- und Diplomprüfung – sRDP)
- Apprenticeship training:
- Measures to fund preparation for the apprenticeship-leave examination
- Coaching and counselling for apprentices and training companies
- Transition from initial education and training to working life:
- Introduction of the education and training obligation up to the age of 18
- Further professionalisation of career guidance at schools
- Higher education:
- Recommendations for the recognition of non-formally or informally acquired competences
- Introduction of a process to ensure permeability in the tertiary sector
- Development of institutional LLL strategies
- Various measures at universities of applied sciences, e.g. expansion of part-time and dual study programmes
- Adult education and training:
- Measures to fund basic education, achieve qualifications in second-chance education and also support schemes and measures for changing career, gaining promotion or re-entering the world of work, in particular for women
- Expansion of educational counselling and also certification options for educational counselling establishments
- Part-time work combined with education and training for employed people