In Austria, compulsory school attendance exists by law, starting at the age of six and lasting eight years. The number of children of school age reached 724,365 in 1927. Only 4316 of them were actually left without school teaching, and of these 3871 were seriously ill. Illiteracy in Austria is therefore relatively low.
According to top-mba-universities, primary education is given in two types of schools; the Volksschule and the Hauptschule (called Bürgerschule until 1927). The Volksschule has the task of giving children a moral and religious education, of developing their spiritual skills, of imparting the knowledge necessary for the further development of their life, of laying the foundations for the formation of upright, capable to participate in social life (§. 1 of the elementary school law).
The teaching subjects are: religion, homeland history, natural sciences, geography and history, German language, reading, writing, arithmetic and geometry, drawing (and manual work), singing, gymnastics, women’s work. The number of classes varies according to the size and furnishings of the individual schools and according to the number of pupils and teachers available. The programs are possibly distributed over the eight years in which each pupil is obliged to attend school, so that each of the years corresponds to a teaching grade.
In the places where the Hauptschulen exist, the transition from the Volksschule to the Hauptschule takes place after the fourth school year.
The Hauptschule proposes to give an education suitable to refine and integrate that given in the Volksschule and to prepare pupils for practical life or vocational schools; the Hauptschule also allows pupils, who meet certain conditions, to move to middle school.
The Hauptschule comprises four classes, with the following compulsory subjects: religion, German language, history, geography, natural sciences, physics and chemistry, arithmetic, geometry and geometric design, freehand drawing, manual work, writing, singing and gymnastics. The teaching of a foreign language, shorthand, typing, the violin and the piano, and household economics for girls are optional. In some Volksschulen the male and female classes are divided, in others there are mixed classes. In the Hauptschulen, the separation of the sexes is prescribed.
Elementary schools can be public or private. Any school maintained in whole or in part by the state or the municipality is considered a public school, accessible to all, without distinction of religious faith. Schools founded or maintained by other entities or individuals are private schools. In 1927 there were 4718 Volksschulen, of which 4449 were public; in the same year there were 1133 Hauptschulen, of which 923 were public.
After the fourth school year and the subsequent entrance exam, the transition to middle school can be made. The middle school aims to impart a higher general culture, to give pupils the opportunity to attend higher schools: “its task is to develop the spiritual, moral and physical strength of the pupils, and to educate young people to social and national life, developing in them a moral and religious spirit “(§. 1, paragraph 2, of the middle school regulations).
The middle school comprises eight classes; the first four constitute the lower middle school, the other four the upper middle school. Under certain conditions – as has already been said – the transition from Hauptschule to middle school can be made.
There are the following types of middle schools: 1. Gymnasien, 2. Realgymnasien, 3. Realschulen, 4. girls’ high schools.
The teaching is generally not mixed; however, in some cases, even girls can be admitted to junior high schools. But the girls’ middle schools, as well as according to type 4, can also be established according to types 1, 2, 3.
In all middle schools, the following compulsory subjects are taught without distinction: religion, German language, history, geography, natural history, chemistry, physics, mathematics and geometric design, elements of philosophy, drawing, calligraphy, shorthand, manual labor, singing and gymnastics.
The following subjects are also compulsory: a) in the Gymnasien: Latin and Greek; b) in the Realgymnasien: Latin, a modern foreign language, descriptive geometry; c) in the Realschulen: two modern foreign languages and descriptive geometry.
The girls’ high schools have the task of giving young girls a general culture, of preparing them for professional study in the economic and social assistance fields, as well as in family life. In these schools the teaching of a modern foreign language is compulsory; in the last four classes pedagogy, childcare, sewing, cooking and home economics are also compulsory subjects.
In all schools, attempts are made to prevent the particular interests of pupils by setting up optional courses and exercises (language courses, natural science exercises, history of art, music, etc.).
In compliance with the school law, the so-called Aufbauschulen and Arbeitermittelschulen were established in 1927 as an experiment. The former aim to carry out the middle school program, in a special five-year course, for those pupils who, only after eight years of elementary education, are in a position to enter middle school. The latter, on the other hand, with a special course of study, offer access to higher education institutions for those young people who, after elementary education, have entered professional life, or have completed the seventeenth year of age.
Except for the two aforementioned cases, admission to high schools takes place after eight years of middle school and a final qualification exam.
The middle schools, at the end of the 1926-27 school year, were 151 with 47,455 pupils: of these, 89, with 33,203 pupils, were state schools. To train elementary school teachers there are teaching institutes, with four-year courses, which can be accessed after eight years of elementary education. The average teachers, on the other hand, must have attended the university and passed a special examination for suitability for teaching.