Mobility stays for learners and teachers have many advantages: they make it possible to get to know other people, cultures, educational systems and working methods; they promote tolerance and openness towards new things; they help to improve language skills and expand professional skills.
Erasmus+ and national programmes
Erasmus+, the European Commission's programme for education, training, youth and sport, plays a central role in facilitating mobility stays. It supports mobility activities and transnational cooperation within and partly also outside Europe in the fields of schools (including early childhood education), vocational education and training, youth, adult education and higher education. The current programme period, for which a total of around 28 billion euros is available across Europe, runs between 2021 and 2027.
National mobility programmes in the elementary and school education sector, i.e. programmes that are funded purely from national resources, do not exist in Austria. All cross-border activities are funded through Erasmus+. However, the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) regularly provides national budget funds for co-financing.
The Federal Ministry of Labour and Economy (BMAW) also supports mobility activities in addition to the Erasmus+ programme. Support is provided to those involved in dual vocational education and training (VET), which falls under the responsibility of this ministry. For example, subsidies are provided to training companies that release their apprentices for a work placement abroad and for a preparatory language course abroad. Specifically, they are reimbursed the gross apprenticeship income for the period in which their apprentices are not present in the company due to the internship or the language course. In addition, they receive
- the accommodation costs of the apprentices at the location of the language course abroad for the duration of the course and/or
- the costs of the language course and/or
- the costs of travel to and from the apprentices' place of residence or place of employment and the place of the language course abroad.
The amount of funding is limited to the maximum funding amounts set out in the Erasmus+ programme.
The apprentices themselves also receive support as part of their work placement or language course abroad. This amounts to 15 euros per day of stay abroad.
Some training companies – usually the larger ones – which also have company locations abroad enable their apprentices to work abroad or continue their apprenticeship for a certain period of time without using public subsidies. Such stays are financed by the companies themselves. However, concrete data on how many apprentices gain experience abroad in this way is not available.
Erasmus+ addresses different target groups in the field of education and training: Children in kindergartens and primary schools, pupils, VET learners, apprentices, teachers, educators, trainers and other professionals in (vocational) education and training have the opportunity to take part in study visits, work placements and teaching and further training activities through the programme.
In principle, Erasmus+ has different project formats, which are differentiated according to the frequency of mobility activities and the size of the projects:
- If institutions regularly carry out activities through Erasmus+, they have the possibility of accreditation. This simplifies participation in the programme and creates planning security within the programme period. The basis for accreditation, for which an application must be submitted, is the multi-annual Erasmus Plan, in which the institution links its long-term goals and needs to the planned mobility activities. The institution also undertakes to comply with quality standards in the implementation and management of its activities.
- In addition, there are short-term projects, which are primarily intended as an introduction to the Erasmus+ programme. Under these projects, up to 30 teachers and/or students can spend a period of six to 18 months as a group or individually at partner schools or institutions to gain experience abroad.
- Small-scale partnerships promote cooperation between institutions on a smaller scale with relatively low administrative costs. These partnerships are suitable for smaller institutions or for those new to Erasmus+ or for target groups that are more difficult to reach.
- For larger organisations (e.g., school authorities, higher education institutions, etc.) there is the possibility of establishing a cooperation partnership with a corresponding scope in order to test innovative practices or to promote the exchange of experience on specific topics.
In Austria, the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) is the coordinating national authority for the implementation of Erasmus+. Together with the Federal Chancellery (for the youth section of the programme) and the Federal Ministry of Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport (for the sports section of the programme), the BMBWF is responsible for the proper implementation of the programme.
The Agency for Education and Internationalisation (OeAD) is the national agency in charge of the implementation and administration of Erasmus+. It advises and supports interested parties, applicants and project promoters.
Erasmus+ programme strands for the (pre-)school education and VET sectors
The school education strand of theErasmus+ programme supports cross-border cooperation between kindergartens, schools and other institutions related to education. In addition, mobility stays in other European countries for teaching and learning purposes of kindergarten and school staff as well as of school pupils are supported. Erasmus+ focuses not only on personal encounters and joint projects, but also on digital exchanges with eTwinning (see 13.4).
The VET strand of the Erasmus+ programme promotes transnational cooperation between institutions in order to improve VET in Europe. In addition to modernising and internationalising the participating institutions, the programme aims to strengthen the competitiveness of entire sectors.
Pupil and student mobility
The exchange of pupils can take place in a group or as an individual measure:
A mobility group consists of at least two learners. Usually, however, entire school classes take part in this type of mobility. As a rule, it takes place at a partner school abroad. In justified cases, the encounter with other learners can also take place at a third location (e.g., European institutions). The focus of this mobility, which lasts between two and 30 days, is peer learning, but also the implementation of joint projects (e.g., theatre projects, environmental projects). In the case of group stays, Erasmus+ funds the travel and accommodation costs for pupils and accompanying persons. For one-off projects with up to 30 participants, institutions can apply for a short-term project. Longer-term projects take place within the framework of an accreditation.
Mobility of individual pupils
Pupils can visit a partner school in a programme country with Erasmus+. In the case of short-term school visits, the length of stay is between ten and 29 days, long-term mobility covers a period of between 30 days and twelve months.
As far as the crediting of competences acquired abroad is concerned, there are only a few legal regulations in Austria. In principle, the decision on credit transfer is the responsibility of the sending school. This is particularly relevant for short-term school visits. For school visits lasting a minimum of five and a maximum of twelve months and taking place in a non-German-speaking country, credit is provided for in the Austrian School Education Act (§ 25 SchUG para. 9): After their return, pupils can move up to the next higher class or continue the school year without repeating the material or exams.
In addition to school visits, Erasmus+ also supports work placements abroad. Many IVET students and apprentices use this opportunity to complete a funded stay abroad. Often, this serves to complete a compulsory internship that is part of five-year higher VET programmes. Individuals whose institutions do not run Erasmus+ projects themselves can turn to intermediary organisations that provide information, advice, support and help organise stays abroad and provide funding. IFA, the association for International Young Workers Exchange, is the only institution of this kind operating nationwide; other institutions, such as the Standortagentur Tirol, the Steirische Volkswirtschaftliche Gesellschaft, the Auxilium Association and the xchange Initiative, have a regional focus (cf. also apprenticeship).
Erasmus+ supports – in addition to learner mobility – also stays abroad of educators, school staff, trainers and other professionals in vocational education and training. Eligible for funding are continuing education and training (CET) stays and stays abroad within the framework of partnerships for cooperation. In the VET strand of the Erasmus+ programme, job shadowing, teaching or training activities as well as courses and seminars for VET teachers and professionals are eligible for funding.
Continuing education and training stays
Teachers, educators or school leaders can attend Erasmus+ co-financed CET programmes abroad lasting between two and 30 days. Participants deepen their knowledge on topics relevant to their daily work and at the same time get to know colleagues from Europe with whom they can exchange and network.
Partnerships for cooperation
Within the framework of such partnerships, participants can teach at partner schools – for a few days, a few weeks or a whole year. In addition, short-term mobility programmes offer the possibility of job shadowing abroad for two to 60 days in order to gain a brief, intensive insight into other teaching and school systems. The contacts made on site often lead to long-term school partnerships, joint projects and other exchange opportunities.
As part of the Austria school network, such short-term programmes or job shadowing placements are offered at schools in France and Spain. Foreign language teachers of the respective national language can complete a two-week internship in the target country.
Teaching in foreign schools
Short-term teaching practice is also possible for teachers at Austrian Schools Abroad (ÖAS). There are eight such schools in total: two in Budapest and one each in Prague, Istanbul, Guatemala City, Shkodra (Albania), Querétaro (Mexico) and Liechtenstein. These schools are private schools with public law, in which the Austrian curriculum applies in combination with curriculum adaptations of the respective host country. These schools are primarily attended by pupils from the host country, whose mother tongue is in most cases not German. Participants in this mobility programme therefore gain particular insights into the development of German as a language of instruction in subject classes. In addition, they are made aware of the migration-related pedagogical challenges in Austria. The possibility of sending teachers to those countries from which many Austrian pupils with a migration background come should lead to an increase in experience in the field of migration education.
In addition to the ÖAS, there are also cooperation schools in Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Moldova, as well as the bilingual schools in Bratislava (Slovakia), Znojmo (Czech Republic) and Mosonmagyaróvár (Hungary). At these schools, the participants have the opportunity to gain insights into German as a foreign language-teaching through observation and to design their own teaching units. In addition, this programme offers the opportunity to gain knowledge about the respective national culture and to get to know the local education system.