Vienna, Austria – AASA’s International Seminar is concluding and our school visits and meetings with education officials have been very informative.
It was after his visit to Austria that Horace Mann brought back its grade level structure, an organizational format still in use today. However, there are several practices in Austria today that we would not want to import. The country’s school day is much shorter than ours. At the primary schools (grades PreK-4), children are dismissed at lunchtime. The secondary school day lasts for about five hours. Meanwhile, Austria offers free programs for all three, four and five year olds, as well as full-day kindergarten. An idea we should definitely import.
At the end of fourth grade, Austrian students are sorted into two groups—those, who continue with an academic program leading to college (about one-third of the students) and those who’ll pursue a vocational track and apprenticeships (two thirds of the students).
From our perspective, this sorting occurs too early. It might be more appropriate at the end of eighth grade. However, Austria offers a free college education to all students, another great idea.
Stephen Razidlo, director of the American International School in Vienna, believes that many of the Austrian students attending his school do so because their parents did not want their children subjected to that selection process. Also, the American school offers a full day of instruction from K-12.
It was a great experience shared with David Schuler, AASA president; Amy Sichel, AASA past president; Bob Mills, former AASA executive board member; and Miranda Beard, president-elect of the National School Boards Association.
Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is blogging throughout AASA’s International Seminar Delegation in Austria.