Children up to the age of six
Depending on their age, small children in Austria attend crèches (1-3 years) and kindergartens (3-6 years). Another possible form of care for small children involves daycare providers working with small groups of children, usually in their own homes.
Compulsory education for 6-15 year-olds (1st-9th grade)
In Austria, compulsory schooling applies to children aged 6 to 15 (1st-9th grade). Primary or elementary school covers the first four years of compulsory education. Pupils then attend one of two types of school for a further four years, namely a Middle School (Mittelschule, MS) or the lower school of a Grammar School (Gymnasium or Allgemeinbildende Höhere Schule, AHS). The compulsory ninth school year (14-15 year-olds) can be completed in different ways.
In addition to the 9 years of compulsory schooling, compulsory education or training applies up to the age of 18 in Austria, i.e. young people must either attend a school or complete an apprenticeship or undertake some other form of training.
Austria has dedicated schools for children with special needs or special educational requirements. In many cases, however, such children are taught in integrated classes in regular schools.
Aged 14 and above (9th - 13th grade)
The upper school of a Grammar School (AHS) or a dedicated Upper School (Oberstufengymnasium, from the age of 14) offers four years of schooling that conclude with the Austrian school-leaving examination called Matura. The Matura can also be taken after attending a vocational secondary school (BHS, 9th-13th grade), e.g. a Higher Technical College (Höhere Technische Lehranstalt, HTL) or a Commercial Academy (Handelsakademie). In addition to the Matura, students at BHS schools acquire vocational qualifications for one or more occupations, depending on the type of school. Both the AHS and the BHS Matura entitle students to enrol at a university or university of applied sciences without any further requirements, except where the number of places is limited.
At Vocational Middle Schools (BMS, lasting between one and four years) students sit a final examination for a school-leaving certificate that entitles them to work in certain occupations, e.g. hospitality and hotel management schools and tourism colleges (three-year courses), schools for social work, health and nursing (2-3 years), fashion schools, and agricultural and forestry schools.
In Austria, apprenticeships are available for young people aged 15 and above in about 250 occupations. Most apprenticeships last between three and four years. The apprenticeships are organised as sandwich courses, with on-the-job training alternating with classes at a vocational training college. At the end of their training, the apprentices take a final examination and attain the status of a skilled worker (journeyman/woman).
The Matura (Austrian school leaving certificate) is a prerequisite for enrolling at a university, university of applied sciences or college. BMS graduates and people who have completed an apprenticeship can obtain a higher education entrance qualification known as the Vocational Matura (Berufsmatura), while graduates of Secondary or Middle Schools and early school leavers can qualify via an entrance examination called Studienberechtigungsprüfung.
Austrian universities and colleges offer a wide range of study programmes in all fields from art to zoology.
An excellent and very complete graphic presentation of the Austrian education system, which is kept regularly updated, is provided by the OeAD Österreichischer Austauschdienst, National Agency Erasmus+ Education, whose information platform is highly recommended.