School and Education in Austria

Already during the Habsburg monarchy before 1918 Austria had a highly developed school system. In 1869, eight years of compulsory schooling for children from 6 to 14 years were introduced. After 1918, the school entered a reform period under the leadership of the educator and politician Otto Glöckel (1874–1935). He opposed the authoritarian school and advocated activity pedagogy. His goal was to make the 8-year school a unitary school (Gesamtschule) for all children. However, the reforms stopped in 1934 and were not resumed until after 1945.

Austria Country Flag

Austria flag source: Countryaah.com

The school is compulsory and free for all children aged 6 to 15 years. All children attend four years of primary school (Volksschule). After this, they can choose between two school types: either the four-year-old Hauptschule, which can be followed by several different technical and vocational schools, or the eight-year Allgemein-forming Hochere Schule, often called Gymnasium, divided into two four-year steps. Completed higher levels of high school leads to Reifeprüfung or Matura, which provides study skills to colleges and universities. Both from the Hauptschule and the upper secondary level is the transition to vocational training and apprenticeship. The Austrian vocational training traditionally has a rich offer of education of varying length, partly as an apprentice in the working life with one day at school and partly as a further schooling for youth with professional letters.

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Austria has 12 universities and 6 colleges for the arts and music. The University of Vienna (founded 1365) is the oldest university in the German-speaking countries. The other universities were founded in the 19th and 20th centuries, except for the University of Graz (1585), Innsbruck (1669) and Salzburg (1622-1810, restored 1962).

After several crises, the Habsburgs surrendered in power in 1490, but Maximillian the 1st, after Friedrich the 2nd, was the heir to the Austrian royal house and the German empire, while his son, Philip the 1st, was married to Princess Juana, made king of Spain.

At the end of the Middle Ages, the Habsburg royal house gathered together the alpine lands, and it corresponds quite closely to the Austria we know today. The Habsburgs constantly sought to gain supremacy over Bohemia and Hungary; a pre-existing Maximillian knew to keep alive.

Despite this gathering, each region retained its distinctiveness and set of rules. During this period, cities developed, while employment in the agricultural sector suffered setbacks, especially in Lower Austria, where interest was gathered on the mining industry.

Under the protection of certain noble families, Lutherans appeared in Austria, especially in the southern and central parts of the country. In 1521 the Protestant propaganda was printed in full openness in Vienna and the ban on its propagation, which had been in effect since 1523, had no practical significance.

During these years, a number of peasant uprisings were witnessed in Tyrol, Salzburg and Inner Austria. The Baptists, a sect with a background in Protestantism, rejected child baptism as inadequate and introduced adult baptism. They had many followers among the peasants and were subjected to fierce persecution from the beginning because they did not have the slightest support among the country’s rulers and because they were considered the most radical.

The leader of the Baptists in the Danube and in the southern Moravia, Balthasar Hubmaier, was burned in the fire in Vienna in 1528, as was the Tyrolean Jakob Hutter, who was sentenced to death in Innsbruck, 1536, after preaching to his followers in the Moravia.

After the death of King Jagiellon of Bohemia and Hungary, Vienna saw the opportunity to expand the Habsburgs’ sphere of power. Ferdinand the 1st was declared king of Bohemia in 1526, but his troops, with the assistance of the Turks, were knocked back as he tried to force the Hungarians to accept him as king.

With the signing of the Peace Agreement in Constantinople in 1562, Hungary was divided into 3 sectors: the northern and western ones joined the Habsburgs; the central became Turkish; and Transylvania, and its adjoining areas came under Hungarian control, by Janos Zapolya and his supporters.

Double Monarchy Austria – Hungary (1867–1918)

At the time of the compromise, Austria was in the midst of a process of transformation that slowly opened the feudal state-owned state to the dynamism of capitalism. In connection with the revolutionary events of 1848-49, the quality of life was finally abolished and the peasants became self-sufficient. The result was increased efficiency in agriculture, which spread to other parts of the economy. The rail network was expanded, trade, industry and credit expanded. The Vienna area and Bohemia were leading growth centers, while Hungary had long maintained its predominantly agrarian character. New social classes linked to industrial society demanded that absolutism be replaced by constitutional forms of government.

However, the constitutional work in Austria was long blocked by ethnic contradictions. Since 1861 there was a parliament in the form of a national council with two chambers, elected by the country days in the different countries, since 1873 directly by the people. Both Austria and Hungary have been parliamentary states since 1867, where citizens were guaranteed liberal freedoms and rights and where different language groups and peoples were in principle equal.

The right to vote was gradually expanded and became common to men in Austria in 1907, to women in 1918. A modern party system emerged, within which a liberal “German national” party alternated in power with a Christian Socialist under Karl Lueger, and an “Austro-Marxist” Socialist Party under Victor. Adler asserted himself in the 1880s. However, official parliamentarianism was not applied consistently, but the double monarchy was largely authoritatively governed by administrative decrees.

Despite the compromise, the ethnic problems were still acute. The Germans took a dominant position in the Austrian parliament, as did the Magyars in Hungarian, while the other nationalities – Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Routes, Croats, Slovenes, Romanians and Italians – felt more or less oppressed and demanded autonomy or association with related nations.

The unresolved issues of nationality determined Austria-Hungary’s foreign policy. After the German and Italian interests were written off, this was aimed at holding the kingdom together and halting the Russian expansion of power in the Balkan Peninsula. Therefore, in 1878, at the Berlin Congress, Austria-Hungary took over the administration of Bosnia and Herzegovina and incorporated them fully in 1908. Support for this policy found Austria-Hungary mainly with Germany. It signed the three-emperor agreement in 1873 and entered into 1879 with Germany the alliance which, through Italy’s accession in 1882, was extended to the triple alliance.

The most serious threat to the country’s cohesion came from the Greater Serbian movement, which, with the support of Russian Pan-Slavic circles, wanted to create a Greater Serbia, which would include Austria-Hungary’s southern Slavic regions. Throne follower Franz Ferdinand sought to meet this threat by making plans for a third, Slavic kingdom within the framework of the monarchy (the Triassic Plan). When this cost him and his life a shotgun shooting in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, they won the upper hand in Vienna, which had long demanded a preventive war against Serbia. On July 28, the Austro-Hungarian War Declaration was issued, which in turn led to Russian mobilization and the outbreak of the First World War.