07/06/2016 - Austria has taken important steps to improve its school system, but needs to reform its complex school governance to further improve quality and equity, according to a new OECD report.
OECD Reviews of School Resources: Austria says the country devotes 4.9% of its GDP to education, which is slightly below the OECD average of 5.3%. Calculated on a per student basis, however, spending levels are about 30% higher than in the OECD on average, even when differences in price levels are taken into account. At lower secondary level, only Luxembourg and Switzerland spend more per student than Austria.
According to the report, recent reforms of the education system are shifting attention towards learning outcomes. Reforms of teacher education and service conditions are under way and the New Secondary School reform and the introduction of all-day schooling promise a more equitable distribution of learning opportunities. However, considering Austria’s mixed performance in international student assessments, more needs to be done to make sure that the available resources translate into educational success. Equity also remains a concern in a system that is still characterised by early tracking and selection.
“Quality and equity in Austria’s school education remain far behind what parents and taxpayers should expect. The country should push forward with its plans for reforming its governance and funding arrangements and make more efforts to improve the transparency of resource flows”, said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills during a joint news conference with the Austrian Minister of Education and Women’s Affairs Sonja Hammerschmid.
The OECD recommends ending the formal divide between federal and provincial schools and teachers and transforming the provincial school boards and the school departments of the provincial governments into a unitary structure. These newly created institutions should overcome the structural challenges that hinder the efficient management of school resources and an integrated approach to the governance of the system. Responsibilities for funding and spending need to be aligned in one hand, even if both the federal and the provincial levels are involved in the administration of the new institutions. The new institutions should be responsible for recruiting and assigning all teachers to schools with funding for all teachers coming from the federal government via the new institutions.
Looking further ahead, the OECD suggests developing a vision of teacher professionalism to improve teaching and learning in classrooms. The concept of schools as professional learning communities and teachers working together as peers needs to gain further ground as does the idea of pedagogical leadership. Teachers should be given greater responsibility for the self-regulation of their profession, for example with the creation of a teacher professional organisation.
Austria should also make further strides to make the system more equitable by moving towards fully comprehensive schooling at the lower secondary level and by promoting integrated forms of all-day schooling. Working towards a more rational organisation of the school offer is a further area for future reform. Policy options include, among others, the creation of larger catchment areas and the joint administration of several schools through associations of municipalities.
OECD Reviews of School Resources: Austria is available at: http://www.oecd.org/edu/oecd-reviews-of-school-resources-austria-2016-9789264256729-en.htm
For further information, please contact Matthias Rumpf (+49-30-28883541).