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Education in Austria-Hungary (Twilight of a New Era)

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Austria-Hungary Education

Educational System Austra-Hungary

The Educational system of the Federal State of Austria-Hungary has the following structure (names given out in German):

  • Preschool, based on Kindergartens and Day Care Centers
  • Primary education, of six years and given out by the Grunschule and Volksschule
  • Secondary Education ranging from two to six years and given out by the Gymnasium, Realschule, Hauptschule and Allgemeine Mittelschule
  • Tertiary or Higher Education given out by Universities, Engineering and Technical, Medical, Normal or Pedagogical and Arts Schools

Primary and Secondary Education

The school attendance at the primary education is compulsory and lasts 6 years. The two main schools are:

  • The Grundschule is the compulsory, universal and comprehensive elementary school for all children starting at the age of 6 years. At the end of 6th grade students can enroll on any the schools of the secondary education. Although Gymnasium tend to consider academic achievement has the norm to accept students.
  • The Volksschule was created has an alternative to the Grundschule in rural areas in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It has an emphasis on its last two years on technical and vocational education. The students at the end of 6th grade are eligible to enter the Hauptschule specialized in the fields of their technical or vocational training.

The secondary education is structured in different types of schools and ranges from the 2 years in the Hauptschule to the 6 years in Gymnasium, Realschule and extended studies in the Hauptschule.

  • The Gymnasium is the academic secondary school with a strong emphasis on liberal arts, classics and humanities and sciences. It generally prepares to enter a university or engineering and technical schools or medical schools for advanced academic study. Generally considered the more prestigious of the three secondary schools. It is widely held that the Gymnasium is the school of the political and academic elites.
  • The Realschule is technical and applied studies secondary school that has more mathematics, scientific and modern languages emphasis than the Gymnasium. The pupils generally enter the university, engineering and technical schools, medical schools, normal schools or arts schools.
  • The Hauptschule (General School) is a technical and vocational training secondary school created in the 1920s, with emphasis on science, technical education and apprenticeship. The Hauptschule enrollment is automatic in most cases for graduates from a Volksschule. However some establishments have setup competitive entrance exams. It normally has 2 years of normal studies. If the student wishes to enter an engineering and technical school it must take 4 more years of extended studies. By the 1930s it was also setup in urban areas with a full course of of industrial and technical training of 6 years for the graduates of the Grundschule and the urban Volksschule.
  • Allgemeine Mittelschule (General Secondary or Middle School) is a comprehensive secondary school created in the 1950s in States governed by the social democrats, They form part of the Eiheitsschule (Comprehensive School) movement. Its purpose its not to select its intake on the basis of academic achievement or aptitude. It gives a full range of subjects across the academic and vocational spectrum. Preparing for further academic and professional or training for the work. The grades are from 2 years for vocational training to the complete 6 years of secondary education.

At the end of the secondary education the students take the Matura. It consists of 3 to 5 written exams and 2 to 3 oral exams. Although the Matura grading is standard throughout Austria-Hungary, the subject list varies according to the curricula of each state, specially in language subjects. The score and chosen subjects on the Matura are taken has selection criteria by the Tertiary Education.

Tertiary or Higher Education

Tertiary or Higher Education is given out by the following institutions:

  • Universities (Universität) are organized in the Federal University and State Universities. There also exists a number of private universities under federal supervision.
  • Engineering and Technical Schools (Ingenieur-und Fachschulen). At this level it compromises the Federal Polytechnic Institute (Bundes Polytechnikum Institut), State Engineering Schools (Staatliche Ingenieurschule), State Schools (Staatliche Hochschule) and Technical Schools (Technischen Hochschule). The last one administered by a trade or industrial organization.
  • Medical Schools (Medizinische Hochschule), created in the late 1920's, are in charge of the medical education. Some are attached to universities but operate and manage themselves independently;
  • Normal or Pedagogical Schools (Normalschule or Pädagogische Hochschule), created mainly by non German and Hungarian speaking states in the 1920s. The institutions are in charge of training the teaching staff for the primary and secondary education. They also conduct educational research and postgraduate diplomas for the teachers and school personal. Its members integrate the certification boards of teachers
  • Arts School (Kunsthochschule), mainly concentrated in the arts and in most cases have special entrance exams.

The Federal Polytechnic and University

The Federal Assembly approved the law to establish a Federal Polytechnic institute (Bundes Polytechnikum Institut, BPI) and University (Bundesuniversität, BU) in 1925 based on the recommendations of a special commission. The BPI would follow the Swiss model and would be a center of excellence in science and technology, and train engineers and scientists of high level. The BU would provide excellence in liberal arts, classic studies and social sciences. The admission to both institutions is open to all candidates that have approved the Matura and pass the comprehensive entrance exam of each institution or faculty. The BPI has campus and laboratories in Vienna, Budapest, Zagreb, Trento, Trieste, Prague, Sarajevo and Cluj. The BU has its campus in Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Cluj, Zagreb, and Lviv. The language policy of the BPI and BU establishes that German, Hungarian and English are the main instruction languages along the state language where the campus is located.

Management of the educational system

The administration, curricula standards and policy making of the education is in charge of the States. An exception are the Federal University and Polytechnic which are under direct administration of the Federal Government. The local authorities generally participate in the funding of the Primary Education. The recognition of the results of the Matura at federal level was worked out in the 1950s, previously states with the same official and co-official languages had agreements of recognition of results and diplomas.

Has a norm the language of instruction at primary and secondary level is the official state languages with separate and equal facilities given to the speakers of other languages. Since 1950 they can take the Matura in the language of their choice. However in rural localities or some small cities the implementation of this policy its no possible due to a limitation of resources.

Situation of the education in Austria-Hungary

One of the main challenges of educational authorities has been the improvement the literacy of population of the States, mainly in rural areas and the east and south regions of the Federation. One step was the compulsory school attendance of six years for children 6 years or older that lead to the creation of the common Primary School (Grundschule) along measures to stop or curtail child labor. However in West Galicia (until 1926), Transylvania, Illyria and Ruthenia still have troubles to implement the new structure. Has remedial measure of importance was the creation in the late 1920's of the Volksschule has an alternative for the Gundschule in rural areas and small villages. However the Volksschule was always seeing has a measure to bridge the gap of illiteracy in the rural areas and was not given much alternative to the secondary education then the two years in the Hapstschule in most cases.

Another trouble was the lack of teaching staff in many of the new States in the official language and upon their establishment did not had a numerous teaching corps that could speak the official language. So they enacted legislation and provided funds for the establishment of State Normal Schools or Pedagogical Schools. The centers for the training of teachers have become the norm in all states of the Federation replacing previous faculties linked to universities or Technical Schools.

In the 1940s came the push to reform the adult education in terms of literacy and improvement of technical and vocational abilities. From this period some States experimented with the creation of Volkshochschule and Heimvolkshochschule under Local or State management. Community and Adult Education is also encouraged mainly by the socialdemocratic and trade union movement. Also of importance are the adult centers managed by religious organizations.

The Eiheitsschule (Comprehensive School) movement is of great significance to understand the educational policy of the socialdemocratic and left-wing parties in Austria-Hungary. Since the beginning of the 20th Century there has been criticism to the elitism of the Gymnasium and tiered system of education. Although from 1920s to 1940s the importance has been the eradication of analphabetism, improvement and access of adult education and school welfare. Since 1950s the goal has been the establishment of Allgemeine Mittelschule (General Secondary or Middle School) or Gesamschule (Comprehensive School) at the secondary level of education and opening the university to working class students.

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