Early childhood education and care
In Austria, elementary educational institutions (crèches, kindergartens, childminders) are the responsibility of the provinces. In order to ensure uniform quality standards throughout Austria, basic pedagogical documents were created, which form the framework for pedagogical activities in these institutions.
One of these documents is the Nationwide Framework Curriculum for Austrian ECEC Services. It addresses six fields of action in which the children can independently gather learning experiences and are to be supported in the best possible way by the kindergarten teachers. Although the European and global dimension is not explicitly addressed in this document, it implicitly plays a major role: three of the fields of action mentioned in the framework plan are about living together in a society, about identity and diversity, about tolerance and responsibility, about intercultural and social encounters, about values, acceptance and languages. All these aspects, which are important not only from a national but also from a European and global perspective, are to be experienced and learnt by children in a practical way in order to be able to actively shape their social and cultural environment.
In addition to the educational framework plan, there is a separate module for the last year in elementary educational institutions, attendance of which was made legally obligatory in 2010, as a further basic document valid throughout Austria, which forms the basis for the monitoring, support and documentation of children's learning processes in the year before they start school. It provides pedagogical suggestions for the promotion of personal and social-communicative competences, which also serve to promote principles such as diversity, participation, democracy, cooperation and inclusion.
The importance of language competence as an essential prerequisite for the success of social processes and successful participation in a multi-layered knowledge society is taken into account by a separate guideline on language education and promotion (link). This basic document is dedicated to supporting the acquisition of German as an educational language and is designed for all children regardless of their first language.
The importance of language competence as an essential prerequisite for the success of social processes and successful participation in a multi-layered knowledge society is taken into account by a separate guideline on language education and support. This basic document is dedicated to supporting the acquisition of German as an educational language and is designed for all children regardless of their first language.
The guideline “Living Values, Developing Values” aims at conveying the basic values of Austrian society in a form suitable for children. It explicitly refers to the EU Treaty as the basis for the understanding of values in Austria and in Europe. In Article 2, this Treaty establishes respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law as well as respect for human rights as fundamental European values. In line with these values are the basic values of school defined in the Austrian Federal Constitution (Article 14 para. 5a), which can also be applied to elementary educational institutions: Children and young people should be enabled to take responsibility for themselves, for their fellow human beings, their environment and for future generations. Every young person should be led to independent judgement and social understanding, be open-minded towards the political, religious and ideological thinking of others and be enabled to participate in the cultural and economic life of Austria, Europe and the world.
The promotion of the European, global and intercultural dimension increases with the entry into school. This is taken into account both in school legislation and in the curricula of all school types.
In accordance with the Federal Constitution, the School Organisation Act stipulates in § 2 that one of the tasks of the Austrian school system is to enable pupils to participate in the economic and cultural life of Europe and the world. Thus, the teaching of the European and global dimension is a legal obligation as a general goal of all types of schools in Austria.
European and global aspects are also integrated into the teaching principles, which are laid down for all Austrian schools. These general principles for the design of lessons are anchored in the curricula but are not assigned to an individual subject. In addition, there are central educational concerns that also go beyond individual school subjects and take into account overarching topics that are significant for the personal development and shaping of pupils' lives or are of social relevance. These principles and concerns include:
- Global learning: Global learning includes dealing with global issues and developments as an essential task of education. By imparting knowledge and skills, pupils should be enabled to deal actively with global challenges: In addition to individual and social competences the ability to reflect, to act and to make political judgements should be expanded. The students should perceive economic, social, political, ecological, and cultural developments as processes that can be shaped and recognise possibilities for their own participation and contribution in the global society. In order to underline the importance of global learning, the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) first presented a strategy on this topic in 2009, which was updated in 2019.
- Intercultural education: Intercultural education should enable people to deal with diversity in a multicultural society with respect. The content and implementation of this teaching principle are described in a decree published in 2017: The focus should therefore be on social change processes, such as migration movements, processes of emigration to rural regions and population growth in urban areas, diverse biographies and life plans, intergenerational and social aspects.
- Citizenship education (link): This deals with political issues of the present, their historical context and the possibilities of influencing decisions. Citizenship education is intended to make an active contribution to shaping society and realising or further developing democracy. Dealing with the EU and pan-European issues and questions is also part of citizenship education. The basics, goals and implementation of this teaching principle are set out in a decree issued in 2015, which is also based on the Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education. The network "EUrope in der Schule", which is located in the centre of polis, supports teachers in the task of promoting awareness and responsibility for European and global contexts and actively dealing with Europe in order to be able to develop a (self)reflective understanding of Europe and European policy skills.
However, citizenship education is not only an interdisciplinary teaching principle, it is also taught from primary school to upper secondary level. In primary school, it is integrated into general science lessons, in the part-time VET school attended by apprentices it is managed as an independent subject. In all other types of schools, it is offered as a combined subject with, for example, history, contemporary history, law or economics.
The curricula of all schools form the basis for the concrete implementation of citizenship education in schools. In principle, this affects all policy areas and encourages discussion of local, regional and national contexts, but also of the European, international and global dimensions of politics. The guide “EUrope in der Schule” published by the polis centre offers many teaching ideas and material suggestions for all types of schools.
Partnerships and networks
Cross-border cooperation in the form of project partnerships and networks on a bilateral, regional and multilateral level plays an important role in the education system, not least because of Austria's geographical position in the heart of Europe. The exchange of experience and institutional cooperation strengthen togetherness and cohesion, they contribute to building sustainable and competitive economic systems and provide valuable impulses for the education systems of the participating states. Cooperation is often supported by formal intergovernmental agreements, such as cultural agreements, memoranda of understanding and joint declarations.
Partnerships within Erasmus+
All institutions active in the field of education and training can submit transnational partnership projects. These are cooperations between institutions that wish to develop, test or transfer new approaches in education, develop measures to promote transparency and recognition of qualifications, or exchange existing good practice.
Such partnerships can take the form of cooperation partnerships. At least three institutions from three different programme countries work together. They support the development, transfer and implementation of innovative practices as well as joint initiatives to promote cooperation, peer learning and exchange of experiences at European level.
Smaller partnerships involve at least two institutions from two programme countries. With shorter durations, lower funding amounts and less administrative burden, they are an ideal format for newcomers or institutions with little experience in the Erasmus+ Programme.
The eTwinning platform initiated by the European Commission in 2005 can be used to search for schools for partnerships (link). The eTwinning.net website enables schools and teachers to share, communicate, collaborate and develop projects with others. eTwinning also provides a variety of online training opportunities for all members of the community. It offers short, intensive online events on various topics, but also longer online courses addressing the needs of the eTwinning community in the areas of online facilitation, teaching and learning, and eTwinning ambassadors at national and European level judge.
In addition to the partnerships managed by the Erasmus+ national agencies, there are other cooperation opportunities for educational institutions in the Erasmus+ VET programme strand, which fall under the direct responsibility of the European Executive Agency for Education and Culture (EACEA) in Brussels:
- Centresof Vocational Excellence (CoVE) are partnerships that aim to deliver high quality vocational qualifications, support entrepreneurial activities and the diffusion of innovation, and act as knowledge and innovation hubs for businesses (especially SMEs). At the same time, they collaborate with centres in other countries through international platforms. CoVE bring together a variety of local partners, e.g. vocational education and training providers, enterprises, research centres, development agencies and employment services. They are characterised by a common interest in specific sectors as well as innovative approaches to addressing societal challenges.
- Alliances for innovation promote the transfer of new skills and respond to skills shortages by developing new curricula for higher education and vocational education and training, and by supporting self-initiative and entrepreneurship in the EU.
- Capacity building projects in VET are international cooperation projects based on multilateral partnerships between VET organisations in programme and partner countries. The collaborations aim to develop modern teaching provision or to promote the relevance, accessibility and responsiveness of VET provision in partner countries. They act as a driver for sustainable socio-economic development.
Regional education cooperation with Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans
Since the 1990s, there have been intensive contacts with the countries of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe on the subject of education. In particular, the Danube region and the Western Balkans are of central interest to Austria and the EU due to foreign, economic, security and development policy priorities. The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) is in charge of these cooperations and networks:
- Central European Cooperation in Education and Training (CECE): As early as the late 1990s, regular regional conferences on education topics were held at civil servant level between Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Within the framework of the Central European Cooperation in Education and Training (CECE), which is based on a Memorandum of Understanding first concluded between the states in 2004, cooperation has been further strengthened and has developed into a solid partnership in which both European and international issues of education policy are discussed and expertise, experience and examples of good practice in all areas of lifelong learning are exchanged. The CECE cooperation is coordinated by the Ministry of Education of one of the participating countries for a period of one year.
- Education Reform Initiative of South Eastern Europe (ERI SEE): In South Eastern Europe, BMBWF is involved in the ERI SEE, the regional cooperation platform of the education ministers of the Western Balkan region. Founded in 2004 as a political network for regional education cooperation in South Eastern Europe, the participating countries cooperate in the areas of general, vocational and higher education. To implement the ERI SEE work programmes, the member countries set up an international secretariat in Belgrade. Through cooperation among the ministries of education and with relevant partner institutions (e.g. European Training Foundation), regional priorities in particular are supported in the context of the EU integration process. At the European level, ERI SEE is involved in the work of the EU Western Balkans Platform on Education and Training.
- EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) – People and Skills: The EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR), which has been in place since 2011, aims to further develop the Danube Region. All citizens of the Danube Region are to be given better opportunities for education, employment and prosperity in their home region through more efficient use of existing structures and resources as well as through a coordinated approach in the coordination of policies at different levels, various sectoral strategies and financing instruments. In addition to Austria, thirteen other countries are participating in the EUSDR, in each of which a national coordination office has been established.
Bilateral and regional educational cooperation
Economics, politics, and culture are tightly interwoven on an international level. Hence international cooperation is of growing importance. Globalisation and demographic changes in societies require BMBWF to pursue a foreign policy that is suitably adapted to geopolitical regions and to topics of relevance not only to the Austrian education system but to society as a whole. This work takes place in the context of new forms of geostrategic networking and regional cooperation. A decisive role in the development and functionality of these networks and active regional cooperation is played by a dynamic, bilateral education policy that promotes exchange and cooperation in the area of basic and advanced education among European and non-European countries.
This cooperation is supported by
- formal interstate agreements (such as cultural treaties, memoranda of understanding, joint declarations),
- by exchanges of experience among experts,
- and by visits on the political level (ministers, high-ranking delegations),
- and also to a greater extent through joint projects and institutional partnerships.
Austria currently has cultural agreements with 32 countries. BMBWF has also concluded a series of letters of intent. The bilateral database of BMBWF provides a country-specific overview of all relevant cooperations and agreements of BMBWF.
The aspect of internationalisation is also promoted in the GENE network (Global Education Network Europe), in which institutions responsible for the support, promotion and political coordination of global education exchange information. Founded in 2001 by six institutions from six countries, this network now has more than 50 members from over 25 countries. Austria is represented by BMBWF and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA). GENE organises its work through roundtable meetings, which take place twice a year, and through peer reviews. Experiences, examples of good practice, strategies and policy measures are exchanged, transnational issues are discussed and a European approach to strengthening global learning is promoted.
Global Education Week (GEW)
The strengthening of global learning is also the focus of the Global Education Week (GEW), which takes place annually in the third week of November. It is a call to rethink the world together, using global education as a tool for solidarity and change and contribute to a more sustainable and equitable world. During the GEW solutions are shared to rethink habits and ways of living, spending and consuming but also to find new ways of education and socialisation.
The GEW supports educators to successfully design, implement and carry out global education initiatives and learning activities. It is also a moment for celebrating all the work done by educators and practitioners throughout the year and for promoting global education as an important tool fostering solidarity, intercultural dialogue and peer learning, sustainable lifestyles, and sustainable development.
During the GEW schools, youth organisations, development organisations, local and national governments, faith-based organisations, and other stakeholders come together to raise awareness about the importance of cooperating for protecting our world through a number of activities: live debates and talks, short -movie festivals, poster competitions, global lectures, workshops, social media campaigns and much more.
In Austria, the GEW is coordinated by Südwind on behalf of BMBWF.
The GEW also relates to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are anchored in the Global Sustainability Agenda. This was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2015. It aims to reduce poverty and hunger, improve health, enable equality, protect the planet, etc. Education is one of the essential prerequisites for achieving the sustainability goals. The Education Agenda 2030, which is anchored in SDG4, obliges the provision of inclusive and equitable education at all levels.