From the Literature Review Report: profile of CReLES in Austria

Introduction and Background

The ever-evolving population demographics with regards to cultural and lingual diversity in Austria requires teachers and school leaders to develop competencies and skills to deal with multicultural and multilingual learning environments. In Austria, the teacher competence profile 2015-2016 framework, requires teachers to have the skills and knowledge needed to teach migrant students. The aspiration is that all teachers undertaking initial teacher education or continuing professional development are provided with the opportunities to develop or strengthen a wide range of competencies relevant for teaching migrant students including intercultural education, teaching in the context of migration, and multilingualism (Eurydice, 2019). For that reason, the inability of the ministry to make sure that the new teacher training curricula would include compulsory courses on migration-related cultural, religious and linguistic diversity for all teacher students was disappointing. Especially universities proved to be quite resistant to the recommendations of the National Quality Assurance body (QSR) [1]. This is in sharp contrast to many teacher training programs in Germany [2] (There are however optional courses and especially master-courses in teaching German as a second language also in Austria).

Culturally Responsive Leadership in the Austrian Education System

Traditionally the style of school leadership in schools was “primus inter pares” and focused mainly on administrative and managerial tasks with minimal time to improve teaching and learning. In Austria, school principals are nearly exclusively of Austrian mainstream origin. According to the OECD (2010), Austrian school leaders have minimal autonomy as far as choosing their teaching staff, deciding on their teachers’ professional development or the distribution of leadership tasks among their teachers. With schools becoming more multicultural and classrooms increasingly marked by the heterogeneity of language, religion, ethnicity and national origin, the need to give more autonomy to school leaders is realised, and in the Education Reforms since 2017 a school leadership profile is provided by the ministry BMBWF, 2019). Presently, leadership training is in a state of transformation. In a Master programme for school management (which is not obligatory for leadership positions; see Kanape-Willingshofer et al., 2015) a module for culturally responsive school leadership (7 lessons) was introduced.

School leaders are not directly responsible for designing the school curriculum because there is a national curriculum for both secondary and primary schools that is set by the central state through ministerial working groups. However, through “school autonomy” legislation, schools are allowed to change 5-10 per cent of the curriculum to write a “school-autonomous curriculum”. This curriculum is decided by the teacher-parent-committee (which is obligatory for every school). School leaders have, however, the main responsibility for organising processes for developing and implementing school-autonomous curricula.

Finally, ‘Mobile intercultural teams’ (MIT) have been set up under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education as a response to the refugee influx in 2015. These MITs are responsible for supporting schools, teachers, parents and students and complement school psychologists in implementing preventive measures, networking and counselling (Eurydice, 2019). At the school level however, counselling is mainly the responsibility of the teachers.


[1] Braunsteiner, Schider, Zahalka (2013)