3.1 General policy for non formal cultural education


There is no official definition for non-formal arts and cultural education, formulated by the governments. Where the term is applied in papers and reports it corresponds with the definition in this compendium.

It is the nature of non-formal education that its shape is indistinct and sometimes difficult to grasp. As contours are blurred, it is not easy to distinguish accurately between non-formal and informal. Acquiring skills in arts and cultural education often means 'learning by doing' and is - with a few exceptions - rather 'informal' than 'non-formal'.

When heading for measurable outcomes, there is hardly any self contained 'non-formal' arts and cultural education. Learning efforts either aim at formal recognition, or if not, take place in an informal rather than non-formal context.

Related Terms

In Austria, the term lebensbegleitendes Lernen [Lifelong Learning] [lebensbegleitendes Lernen] has become more and more common.

The term Musische Bildung [Artistic education] [Musische Bildung] is used in legal documents and refers to all kinds of arts education, foremost music, but it also includes movement and drama and - partly - visual arts and poetry.

Amateur arts [Amateurkunst] plays a major role, especially in the regional culture in Austria, ranging from choral singing, brass music, amateur theatre to folk dance, folk customs and folk costumes.

Rationale for arts and cultural education

Basically art is regarded as having a share in improving the quality of life and personal development. Access to art works, and cultural participation [Kulturelle Partizipation] have high value in many respects. Therefore a wider public shall be addressed and motivated to participate in culture. Special programmes or awards envisage the involvement of new target groups like handicapped persons, migrants, people with learning disabilities etc.

Education policy is the backbone for the advancement of Austria's economy, society and culture. Cultural education is an impulse for creativity in all areas of life and an investment into the country's future.


The foundations for a cultural policy grounded in education were laid in 1975. A survey on the cultural behaviour of the Austrian population had shown alarming results concerning cultural participation and awareness of arts and culture in general. As a consequence a Catalogue of Countermeasures [Kulturpolitischer Maßnahmenkatalog] was enacted by the (then) Federal Ministry of Education and the Arts [Bundesministerium für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur].

A number of statutory and organisational measures were started that still have an impact on the provision of arts and culture for a wider public.

Stating that education policy is the core part of any democratic cultural policy and that cultural policy is another sort of social policy, in 1975 the cultural policy agenda was oriented towards equal opportunities. (See 1.1.2)

Cultural diversity

The government programme of 2008 underlined the preservation and extension of cultural diversity and the participation in culture of as many individuals as possible (addressing in particular groups with low income). Intercultural activities shall promote the integration of migrants into cultural life and encourage youth culture.

Cultural education

Cultural education or cultural mediation [Kulturvermittlung] is a core function of cultural policy. Publicly funded cultural institutions [e.g. Bundesmuseen] share commitment by a cultural political assignment.

To ensure free access to culture, the government commits itself to provide the cultural infrastructure and to allocate sufficient financial funding. Education shall increase participation and cultural competence. Especially target groups like young people, senior citizens or migrants shall be addressed.

National policies

Non-formal education policy is part of all policy areas, from educational and cultural policy to social policy.

Policy for non-formal cultural education is aimed at the acquisition of knowledge and skills in terms of persistent further education, at the ability and readiness to act and judge responsibly and at the development of individual dispositions.

Artistic education is considered an important instrument to achieve this aim, which is reflected in the federal law concerning public funding of adult education and public libraries.
(Source: Bundesgesetz  Nr. 171/1973)

Provincial Policies

Promotion of education and culture is also a task of provincial authorities, its legal basis being the respective Cultural Promotion Acts in the provinces [Kulturförderungsgesetze der Bundesländer]. All provinces (except Wien) adopted Cultural Promotion Acts and partly amended these since the 1970s.

In the Acts the provinces commit themselves to provide infrastructure for cultural life in the province at the same time leaving the freedom of art untouched. They emphasize the role of arts and culture for the advancement of creativity and innovation and the individual's personality development. Cultural diversity and participation are general objectives. In addition each province has various focuses.

Some provincial examples

In Steiermark, adult education, arts and education centres get funded to stimulate cultural encounters and public debate. (Steiermark, 2005)

The provincial government of Oberösterreich puts emphasis on the individual self-fulfilment through creative activities and the extension of educational provisions furthering the humanisation of society, especially targeting young people and the regional cultural development. (Oberösterreich, 1987)

In Voralberg cultural life includes the arts, science, education and cultural heritage delivered by (professional) creative artist and mediators.
(Vorarlberg, 2009)

Niederösterreich adds folk culture Kärnten intercultural cooperation and Salzburg everyday culture as main cultural sectors (Niederösterreich, 1996. Salzburg, 1998. Kärnten, 2009.).

Tirol includes public libraries into the infrastructure worth funding (Tirol, 2010) while Burgenland encourages creative leisure time activities, cultural animation and folk art (Burgenland, 1981).

Wien, being capital, province and municipality at the same time, has special regulations. On a district level, everyday culture and intercultural activities shall be promoted.
(Sources: Kulturförderungsgesetze der Länder)

Local policies

Provincial Cultural Promotion Acts are mainly executed at community level. Municipalities have no legal authority, but some, even smaller communities, have adopted cultural development strategies (Linz 2000 / interim result 2004, Salzburg 2001 / evaluation 2007, St. Johann im Pongau 2003, Krems 2006).
(Source: culturalpolicies.net and Positionspapier - Lokale Agenda 21, 2010)

Funding of cultural activities is regarded as an investment in the future. Cultural education and networking get priority as well as cultural work with youth, migrants and in the neighbourhood (Krems, 2006).

Government vision

Access for everyone

Participation in culture is a human right. Many documents reflect Article 27 of the human rights declaration, that 'everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.'
(Source: Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948)

In accordance, the Federal Constitution Act [Bundes-Verfassungsgesetz] refers to the importance of encouraging cultural diversity, understanding, tolerance and cultural participation.
(Source: Bundes-Verfassungsgesetz, 1929)

Making arts accessible to all groups in society is depicted as a task of cultural policy in the Art Promotion Act [Kulturförderungsgesetz] of 1988. The Minister of Education, Arts and Culture states in the cultural report of 2009 that the government follows a policy that wants to provide everybody the chance to participate in culture and the arts.
Sources: Bundesgesetz Nr.146/1988; Kulturbericht 2009, BMUKK

Meaningful leisure time activities

Extra curricular youth work in Austria is geared towards offering meaningful leisure time activities. This includes the promotion of tolerance, understanding, consciousness for the environment, political and social commitment, encounter with cultural heritage and participation in cultural life. Above all, non-formal and informal learning opportunities shall bring forward abilities and strengths of young people.

Holistic education of the individual

The provincial Music School Acts of the provinces regard non-formal artistic education as holistic education of the individual which is not just aimed at studying a particular artistic technique.
(Source: Niederösterreichisches Musikschulgesetz, 2006)

Artistic education for everyone

At a local level, music schools [Musikschule] have an important function for the cultural life of a municipality. They are open to everybody. They give the wider public the opportunity to exercise artistic practice actively, thus providing a meaningful, creative and social conduct of life for all ages. Furthermore, these schools facilitate the approach to contemporary art and offer basic artistic education that may lead to a professional career for the most gifted pupils and academic artistic education (University, Music Academy).

Members of choirs, orchestras, brass bands entertained by a community are usually recruited through these schools. Public funding is guaranteed by provincial governments and local councils.
(Source: O.ö. Musikschulgesetz, 1977)

Folk culture [Volkskultur]

Instead of mere concentrating on preservation and maintenance of folkloristic tradition, the governments' objectives shifted towards a creative, future-oriented alignment. This includes engagement with a holistic creative education, complemented by everyday culture and different cultural initiatives.


In Austria, legislation takes place at federal and provincial level. According to the Federal Constitutional law most cultural competence is handed to the provinces or Bundesländer (cultural sovereignty). Each of the 9 provincial governments has one or more departments concerned with cultural affairs. This includes adult education and/or youth culture and extracurricular youth work, in some cases lifelong learning or work with senior citizens.

The community [Gemeinde] is a self-administrative body [Selbstverwaltungskörper] without legislative competences. Community affairs are managed autonomously, based on the principle of subsidiarity. Culture and education departments are part of the administrations of bigger communities, like principal capitals [Landeshauptstädte].

National level

Non-formal arts and cultural education concerns different areas of policy (adult education, youth work, folk culture). Mainly three ministries with different departments share responsibilities.

The Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture [Bundesministerium für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur, BMUKK] is in charge of both formal and non-formal arts and cultural education, including adult education and leisure time pedagogy. A federal law regulates the provision of general adult education (Bundesgesetz über die Förderung der Erwachsenenbildung, 1973)

In 2008, the department Kulturnetzwerk was established to coordinate activities and initiatives in this area. This network represents all departments dealing with arts and cultural education within the Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture as well as the association KulturKontakt Austria [KulturKontakt Austria].
(Source: Kulturbericht 2009, BMUKK)

Extracurricular Youth Work (leisure time activities for young people) is part of the agenda of the Federal Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth [Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft, Familie und Jugend, BMWFJ].

The Federal Youth Promotion Act [Bundes-Jugendförderungsgesetz] is the legal substructure for extracurricular youth work and non-formal education at national level. Responsibility for implementing this Act mentioned is with the Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection [Bundesministerium für Arbeit, Soziales und Konsumentenschutz, BMASK]. The act works towards the appropriate exchange of information between national and provincial bodies and the coordination of subsidies, where necessary.
(Source: Bundes-Jugendförderungsgesetz, 2000)

The Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection also promotes learning opportunities for senior citizens (Active ageing).

Provincial level

At provincial level responsibilities vary. Provincial adult education includes music schools (for children and adults) and public libraries.
In Wien, being federal capital, executing provincial government and local authority at the same time, there is one department (MA 13) responsible for (adult) education and extracurricular youth work. Art and culture however belong to the responsibility of a different department (MA 7).

In some provinces one single department is in charge of administration and funding of adult education as well as cultural education, extracurricular youth work, folk culture music schools and lifelong learning, all together (Department for Education, Generations and Culture in Kärnten, Abt. 6).

In other provinces, it is just the Culture Department or the Education Department that is in charge of non-formal arts and cultural education, either through adult education or extracurricular youth work (Tirol, Burgenland, Niederösterreich, Oberösterreich, Salzburg). In a few cases the Culture Department is responsible for neither of these issues (Vorarlberg, Steiermark).

Extracurricular youth work [Außerschulische Jugendarbeit]

The provincial youth department [Landesjugendreferat] in each of the provinces [Bundesländer] are in charge of extracurricular activities for and by young people on community level. 5 of 9 provinces have adopted Youth Promotion Acts [Jugendfördergesetze] to stipulate measures for the development of personalities and talents of the youth, the encounter with cultural heritage, media education and meaningful leisure time activities.

Folk culture

Folk culture is primarily an issue for the provincial cultural departments. Institutions for the promotion of folk culture have been modernised and reorganised since the early 1990s; e. g. the Institut für Volkskultur (Oberösterreich, 1991), Referat Salzburger Volkskultur (Salzburg, 1993), Institut für Volkskultur und Kulturentwicklung (Tirol, 1993), Volkskultur Steiermark GmbH (Steiermark, 2008).