2.4.4 Content: curriculum, subjects, projects, attainment targets, learning lines

Upper secondary and vocational education in Austria comprises a variety of different school types. Arts education plays a different role in each of these school types depending on their focus of education.

Compulsory subjects in academic secondary schools

The establishment of the autonomy of schools [Schulautonomie] enables schools to change subject tables within a given range. The following table shows the non-discretionary timetable for the arts for the last for years of academic secondary schools.

Table 1: Non-discretionary timetable (weekly lessons)

Compulsory subjects 9 10 11 12

Visual arts education [Bildnerische Erziehung]

2 1 2* 2*
Music education [Musikerziehung] 2 1
Technical crafts [Technisches Werken] and Textile arts [Textiles Werken] - - - -

* In grade 11 and 12 students have to choose between visual arts education and music education.

Compared to primary and lower secondary level students, students in upper secondary education have far fewer lessons per week in the arts. However, some academic secondary schools focus on art or music education and therefore offer far more weekly lessons in these subjects.

Among the general guidelines of the curriculum there is one concerning creativity and design which should be considered in every subject (Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Kultur, 2004). The implementation of this guideline has not been evaluated.

Compulsory subjects in pre-vocational schools

Approximately 20 per cent of young persons in Austria decide to attend a pre-vocational school in the last year of compulsory education. Pre-vocational schools provide practical education of use to those who want to enter the job market on completion of compulsory education (Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture in cooperation with Federal Ministry for Science and Research, 2008).

Apart from subjects like German, mathematics, English, science, physical education and religion - which are compulsory for everyone in pre-vocational education - students must select one of the offered subject areas: construction, commerce, metal, wood, electronics, tourism, public service etc. In some areas, e.g. metal or electronics, technical drawing [Technisches Zeichnen] is compulsory. For students chosing the area public service there are 1 to 4 weekly lessons in creative design [Kreatives Gestalten]. All things considered, the choice of the subject area determines whether or not students are offered lessons in the arts or art-related subjects in pre-vocational schools.

Compulsory subjects in vocational schools and colleges

As regards compulsory art education, it is difficult to compare timetables because of the variety among vocational schools and colleges. It depends on the respective specialisation of the school or college if culture and the arts are an essential part of the curriculum.

Some vocational schools and colleges focus on arts and crafts. Hence, they are called art schools [Kunstschulen]. There are, for example, schools and colleges for graphic and media design, for fashion and photography, for woodcarving and other forms of crafts (Hewson et al., 2008). The arts play a major role in these schools.

Culture and interculturality play an important role at schools and colleges of business administration, management and service industries, tourism, fashion and artistic design: on the one hand because increasing globalisation requires international discourse and language competencies and knowledge of culture, on the other because some schools focus on cultural management.

In the context of competence-oriented teaching schools and colleges of business administration are making use of the KULTUR-Portfolio (since 2004). KULTUR-Portfolio is an instrument in which students document cultural and artistic activities and keep record of skills that they have developed throughout their education. The activities and achievements are monitored by teachers of German.

Creativity is one of the main competences that students preparing to teach at kindergarten need to develop. Therefore, music, instrumental music, rhythm & music, visual arts, textile arts and technical crafts are compulsory subjects at colleges for kindergarten teachers (Lehrplan der Bildungsanstalt für Kindergartenpädagogik, 2004).

In many vocational schools and colleges subjects such as German, history, religion or political education are of importance for cultural education.

Optional subjects

Schools may - but are not required to - offer optional subjects. As in all types of education, some of the subjects offered at upper secondary and vocational schools are assessed, e.g. additional language learning. Others, such as drama, dance, creative writing, are usually not assessed. In Austria music is an important part of culture. Hence, many secondary and vocational schools have a choir or orchestra which is organised as an extra optional subject.