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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Teaching and learning in primary education


5.Primary education

5.2Teaching and learning in primary education

Last update: 3 February 2024


Curriculum, subjects, number of hours

Curricula are decrees issued by the Federal Minister of Education, Science and Research based on the School Organisation Act. They specify the statutory educational task of the respective school type. Experts are involved in preparing and developing the curricula.

Starting from the school year 2023/24, a new curriculum is mandatory for all primary schools, starting from the pre-school stage and the 1st grade. Find more information here.

The replacement of the curriculum of primary school takes place year by year starting 2023/24 with pre-school-stage and first grade, 2024/25 second grade and so on.

Source of the phasing out curriculum: 

Primary School Curriculum, Federal Law Gazette no. 134/963 as amended by Federal Law Gazette II no. 303/2012 of 13 September 2012

Source of the phasing in curriculum:

Primary School Curriculum, Federal Law Gazette no. 134/963 as amended by Federal Law Gazette II no. 269/2023 of 15 September 2023

The curriculum of primary school comprises the following areas:

General section:

  • the general educational objective
  • comments on competence orientation
  • general didactic principles
  • interdisciplinary topics
  • organizational framework
  • timetable (total number of lessons and the number of lessons of each subject)

Subject curricula: 

  • the respective educational and teaching task,
  • the didactic principles,
  • central subject-specific concepts,
  • subject-specific competency models and their associated competency areas
  • competency descriptions and application areas, curriculum.

Based on the primary school curriculum, the goal of primary education is to impart a basic and well-balanced education in the social, emotional, intellectual and physical spheres.

Taking the pupils’ individual requirements into account, primary schools have to fulfil the following tasks:

  • to develop and promote the pupils’ eagerness to learn, their skills, interests and talents,
  • to strengthen and develop the pupils’ trust in their own ability to act,
  • to strengthen and build their social competence (responsible behaviour, team spirit, integration, development and acceptance of rules and norms, critical thinking),
  • to enhance their language skills (communication, expression),
  • to develop and impart basic knowledge, skills, abilities, insights and attitudes that serve
    • to acquire reading, writing and arithmetic skills (including the use of modern communication and information technologies in a manner suitable for children),
    • to get into contact and deal with the environment and
    • to broadly develop artistic and technical skills as well as physical and motor skills,
    • to gradually develop an appropriate attitude towards learning and working (perseverance, care, accuracy, the readiness to help others and considerateness),
    • to guide pupils towards purposeful, independent and focused learning (based on more play-oriented forms of learning before school attendance).


Timetable of the pre-school stage

The timetable of the pre-school stage comprises the following compulsory exercises (total number of weekly lessons: 20): Religious Education, Elementary Science, Road Safety Instruction, Language and Speech, Preparation for Reading and Writing, Early Mathematics, Singing and Music, Rhythmic/Musical Education, Art, Handicraft, Physical Activity and Sport, Play.

The specific learning situation should relate to the experiences and interests of the children in the pre-school stage. The major portion of the time available is allocated for work in small groups. This approach enables the children to be active in different areas and in different ways (alternating work and play). Work in small groups is particularly effective in encouraging and motivating pupils while providing opportunities for individual support. 

Timetable for primary school

Grades and numbers of weekly lessons (1)

Compulsory subjects 1st 2nd 3rd 4th grade Total
Religious Education 2 2 2 2  
German 7 7 7 7  
Modern Foreign Language - - 1 1  
Mathematics, Science, Economy and Society
Early Mathematics 4 4 4 4  
Elementary Science 3 3 3 3  
Music, Art and Creativity
Music 1 1 1 1  
Art and Design 1 1 1 1  
Technology and Design 1 1 2 2  
Health and Physical Activity
Physical Education and Activity 3 3 2 2  
Compulsory exercises          
Modern Foreign Language (2) x2 x2 - -  
Traffic and Mobility Education (3) x3 x3 x3 x3  
Total number of weekly lessons 20–23 20–23 22–25 22–25 90
Remedial Instruction (4)  1 1 1 1  


(1) The number of weekly lessons in the area of compulsory subjects and compulsory exercises may be increased or decreased by a maximum of one lesson per week per grade, and by a maximum of four lessons per week in total. The number of lessons in the compulsory subject of „Religious Education“ must not be reduced. The total number of lessons in the compulsory subject of „Physical Education and Activity“ may not fall below ten lessons per week. It’s not possible to completely cancel a subject at one grade. The total number of lessons must not exceed 90 lessons per week.

(2) x² for the compulsory exercise "Modern Foreign Language" means that this is to be taught integratively in the first two grades with 32 annual lessons. This is to be taken into account within the framework of the total number of weekly lessons available for the subjects; the total number of weekly lessons is not changed by this.

(3) The x³ is noted in the compulsory exercise "Traffic and Mobility Education". This means that in all four grades "Traffic and Mobility Education" is to be taken into account integratively with ten annual lessons each, within the framework of the available total number of weekly lessons of the subjects. The total number of weekly lessons is not changed by this.

(4) Remedial Instruction is to be offered as interdisciplinary lessons as needed, for students who require additional learning opportunities. It can be held either on an integrative basis or as an add-on. When the teacher determines the need for support in accordance with § 12 (6) of the School Education Act, the expected duration (course length) of the Remedial Instruction, the type of support and the subject to which the instruction relates ("German" and/or "Mathematics") must be stated in a written support concept.

In addition, pupils can attend so-called optional exercises on a voluntary basis: Choir, Instrumental Music, Physical Education and Activity, Drama, Creative Music, Art, Modern Foreign Language, Development of Special Interests and Talents, First Language Instruction.

First Language Instruction

The optional exercise First Language Instruction for pupils with a first language other than German at primary schools and special needs schools aims to develop and consolidate their bilingualism. For reasons of early language support it is recommended to employ first language teachers already in the pre-school stage.

First Language Instruction can be held all-year where necessary, as an add-on and, under certain conditions, parallel to classes or integrated into them in the form of an optional exercise. Around 25 languages are offered; the vast majority of these classes are in Turkish and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian. 

Curricula for pupils with special educational needs

Primary school curricula apply to pupils with special educational needs who attend a primary school provided they can, in principle, reach the respective teaching objectives without this representing an excessive workload for them. Otherwise the curriculum of a special needs school appropriate for the respective type of disability must be applied. There are special curricula for general special needs school, special needs school for blind children, special needs school for deaf children, special needs school for children with multiple disabilities, and special needs school for severely disabled children. 

Teaching methods and materials

Teachers have some freedom of choice regarding the selection and weighting of the syllabus and the choice of teaching methods and materials.

To design teaching at primary school to be appropriate for children, lively and stimulating for them, teachers have to impart various learning techniques depending on the situation and try out forms of learning appropriate for primary school:

  • learning by playing,
  • open learning,
  • project-oriented learning,
  • learning by discovery,
  • learning through information,
  • learning by repetition and practice.

The possibilities offered by computers must be used to encourage independent, target-oriented and individualised learning and creative work.

The teaching content of primary school is organised by subjects, but the individual subjects should not be too strictly separated because the teaching of knowledge also requires the establishment of cross-links and therefore an interdisciplinary approach. This is especially true for the implementation of the following interdisciplinary topics:

  • Reflexive gender pedagogy and gender equality
  • Sex education
  • Language education and reading
  • Environmental education for sustainable development
  • Traffic and mobility education
  • Economic, financial, and consumer education
  • Educational, vocational, and life orientation
  • Entrepreneurship education
  • Health promotion
  • Computer science education
  • Intercultural education
  • Media education
  • Civic education

Teachers and the school community have some leeway in selecting the teaching materials to be used. In general, however, the competent Federal Minister is responsible for decreeing the basic materials a school should have for teaching purposes. Here, teaching materials are those aids that serve to support or facilitate individual teaching tasks and ensure that the teaching outcome is achieved. The content and form of these teaching materials must align with the curriculum of the respective school grade and the competences (education standards) to be imparted by the respective school type. Their acquisition must be economically justifiable and they must be used appropriately. Before any teaching materials (such as school textbooks, CD-ROMs, DVDs, maps and therapeutic teaching materials) are declared suitable for use in the classroom, an expert report must be obtained. Exceptions are reading materials (literary texts) and working materials (for writing, drawing, measuring and for practical classes). 


In addition to school-based instruction, pupils can be assigned homework. Teachers have to ensure that pupils can do their homework without the help of other people. Regarding the amount of homework, teachers have to consider the pupils’ capacity to fulfil the tasks, the number of lessons on the respective days as well as any school events. It is not permitted to assign homework for pupils to do on Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays or during school holidays.

The learning times at all-day schools have to be used for homework, consolidating and supporting the teaching activities and providing individual support, but not for introducing new teaching content.