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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Teaching and learning in general lower secondary education


6.Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

6.2Teaching and learning in general lower secondary education

Last update: 14 June 2023


Curriculum, subjects, number of hours

The legal basis for the curriculum of the compulsory secondary school and lower cycle of AHS is the School Organisation Act.

The curricula are drawn up by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research together with experts (universities, universities of applied sciences, university colleges of teacher education). They are implemented at schools by school directors and teachers.

In principle, both school types have the same compulsory subjects in common. They mainly concern the areas of language of instruction, foreign language, mathematics, natural and social sciences, art, sport and physical education as well as digital basic education.

In both school types, the number of hours over all four years is 124, the number of hours per week varies between 29 and 33. The distribution of the hours in the individual subjects differs depending on the type of school or the school focus. In general, classes are held in German. Teaching in a modern foreign language – this is usually English – begins at primary school. From compulsory secondary school as well as in the lower cycle of AHS, written examinations must be taken in the “first modern foreign language”. In the grammar school branch (Gymnasium), a second modern foreign language or Latin is compulsory from the third grade onwards.

The following compulsory subjects are taught in the first 4 years of compulsory secondary school (per week):

Compulsory subjects1st grade2nd grade3rd grade4th gradeTotal
Religious instruction22228
Modern foreign language443314
History and social studies / citizenship education-2226
Geography and economics21227
Digital basic education11114
Biology and environmental studies22228
Technical and textile shop *)22228
Physical education and sport433414
Home Economics-1--1
Compulsory exercise on career guidance--0-1x0-1x1x **)
Total number of weekly lessons:293131-3232-33124


*) If necessary it is possible to provide the subject sections of technical shop and textile shop alternately. Here it must be ensured that both subject sections are represented equally within one school year. **) In the 3rd and 4th grades as a separate subject with at least one weekly lesson.

The chart below presents the standard timetable for lower cycle academic secondary schools (AHS): In the 1st and 2nd grade, the curricula are identical. In the 3rd and 4th grade, the number of lessons for the different types of schools (Gymnasium, Realgymnasium, Wirtschaftskundliches Gymnasium) begins to differ. Please refer to the abbreviations (G = Gymnasium, RG = Realgymnasium, WG = Wirtschaftskundliches Gymnasium) for changes in lessons:

Weekly lessons of compulsory subjects in grades 1 to 4:

Compulsory subjects1st grade2nd grade3rd grade4th gradeTotal
Religious instruction22228
Modern foreign language44G4, RG+WG33G15, RG+WG14
Latin / 2nd modern foreign language--G4, RG+WG0G3, RG+WG0G7, RG+WG0
History and social studies / citizenship education-2226
Geography and economics21G+RG2, WG32G7, RG+WG8
Mathematics44G+RG4, WG33G+WG14, RG15
Digital basic education11114
Geometric drawing---RG2, G+WG0RG2, G+WG0
Biology and environmental studies22G+WG1, RG22G+WG7, RG8
Chemistry--WG2, G+RG02WG4, G+RG2
Technical and textile shop *)22RG+WG2, G0RG2, WG3, G0RG9, WG8, G4
Physical education443314
Compulsory exercise on career guidance--0-1x0-1x1x **)
Total number of weekly lessons:2931G+WG32, RG31G+WG31, RG33124


*) As an alternative compulsory subject. **) Can also be offered in block form or integrated into the lessons of compulsory subjects.

As part of school autonomy, deviations from the standard timetable are possible following a decision of the school community committee. By reducing the number of lessons in individual subjects, more intensive focuses and new subjects can be created in other areas.

The field of optional subjects and exercises which can be chosen from in addition to compulsory subjects is diverse. 

Teaching methods and materials

According to § 17 of the School Education Act teachers of compulsory secondary school as well as academic secondary school / lower cycle can make independent, responsible decisions on setting priorities and regarding organisation and structure of the course contents that are to be taught in a school year of compulsory secondary school. Methodological freedom is limited by certain criteria, such as the level of development and progress of individual pupils and of the class as a whole, the structure of the subject matter, aspects of school organisation and practical requirements (appropriateness of method).

Moreover, school has many educational tasks to accomplish which it can only deliver in an interdisciplinary approach.

For learning at school, the relevant findings of research are to be considered in the planning and organisation of learning processes. Learning and work techniques are to be conveyed and practised in a situation-specific context.

Computers are to be used as vehicles for independent, target-oriented and individualised learning and for creative work. In some schools there are so-called “laptop classes”, which means that – as far as possible – laptops are used for teaching.

The methods used are teacher-input teaching, individual, partner and group work, cross-curricular teaching and project-based training as well as individual work. Individual forms of learning (e.g. doing own research) are especially promoted, also with regard to preparing students for life-long learning.

The use of approved textbooks (free of cost with a co-payment), of audio-visual aids and information and communication technology, among a variety of other teaching aids, supports the respective methods.

The teaching materials must correspond to the curriculum of the grade concerned in terms of form and content.

Pupils may attend remedial teaching for all subjects, on a voluntary basis or compelled by the teacher, if they are temporarily in need of an additional learning option. Remedial teaching may not exceed a defined number of hours per pupil and year, or week. Remedial teaching may be offered in a course organised parallel to classroom work, as modules, or integrated into classroom instruction.