Education in Austria is entrusted partly to the Austrian states (Bundesländer) and partly to the federal government. School attendance is compulsory for nine years, i.e. usually to the age of fifteen.
Pre-school education (called Kindergarten in German), free in most states, is provided for all children between the ages of three and six years and, whilst optional, is considered a normal part of a child's education due to its high takeup rate. Maximum class size is around 30, each class normally being cared for by one qualified teacher and one assistant.
Primary education, or Volksschule, lasts for four years, starting at age six. The maximum class size is 30, but may be as low as 15. It is generally expected that a class will be taught by one teacher for the entire four years and the stable bond between teacher and pupil is considered important for a child's well-being. The so called "3Rs"(Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic) dominate lesson time, with less time allotted to project work than in the UK. Children work individually and all members of a class follow the same plan of work. There is no streaming.
Standard attendance times are 8 am to 12 pm or 1 pm, with hourly five- or ten-minute breaks. Children are given homework daily from the first year. Historically there has been no lunch hour, with children returning home to eat. However, due to a rise in the number of mothers in work, primary schools are increasingly offering pre-lesson and afternoon care.
As in Germany, secondary education consists of two main types of schools, attendance at which is based on a pupil's ability as determined by grades from the primary school. The Gymnasium caters for the more able children, in the final year of which the Matura examination is taken, which is a requirement for access to university. The Hauptschule prepares pupils for vocational education but also for various types of further education (Höhere Technische Lehranstalt HTL = institution of