Choosing a school in Vienna

Local or international?

Choosing a school in Vienna

For many expat parents, finding a school that solves the language barrier in traditional public schools is a top priority. Vienna, home to one of the headquarters of the UN, has plenty of schooling options for expats. When picking a school, it is important to consider your child’s age, their language proficiency, and how long you expect to stay in the country. 

State schools

Most public-run schools in Vienna only offer lessons in German, so this may not be an option for your child if they don’t speak the language or are quite young. There are a handful of public schools that offer a bilingual education through a program called Vienna Bilingual Schooling (VBS). 

VBS schools follow the normal Austrian curriculum, but it is taught in both English and German. Reading and writing are first taught in the student’s mother tongue and then in the other language to ensure a smooth transition, and most other subjects are taught in both languages. 

If you are looking for a school that will give your child the chance to make local friends and to learn German, a VBS school is a great option. However, these have become very popular among expats and locals, so it can be hard to land a spot in one. Apply as early as possible before the school year starts to maximize your chances.

International private schools

International schools in Vienna tend to have students from all over the world and aim to provide a well-rounded educational experience that combines both a focus on academic performance and the personal development of each individual student. There are also aspects that make these schools unique. Some, such as the Danube school and the Vienna International School, have programs and classroom support for students whose first language is not English. Others, such as the Amadeus school, have boarding facilities for their students.

There are normally a wide range of after-school activities and field-trips, such as going to concerts or visiting museums. Some schools have a commitment to community service.

Many of the international schools run the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which has a curriculum which starts at elementary level and builds up to the last two years of preparation for the IB itself (16-18 years). The IB is widely accepted by universities worldwide. Students take six subjects, three of those at a higher level, and complete three additional modules which involve different activities, including: a personal project, an exhibition and community service. The course is challenging, but it is widely considered to provide a broad, high quality experience for students and provide a strong foundation for higher education.

American schools

American international schools traditionally began as schools geared toward Americans living abroad, but educational approach makes them a popular choice for expat parents, as well as locals. The American-style curriculum has a greater focus on group work, creativity and experiential learning is also emphasized. Many students participating in science experiments, group projects, international fairs and other other extracurricular activities. 

American schools usually offer a choice of diplomas to students. A leading example is the American International School  (AIS) in Vienna, from which students can graduate with a  an IB diploma, as well as a US high school diploma. AIS highlights this approach as giving more higher education options for its graduates, with many going to university in the US or the UK. 

Choosing a school

Many expats choose international schools for their family-like environment. Kids and parents often express how supported they feel by the school community in their transition to their new home. However, local schools may be better for families who are permanently relocating to Vienna, especially if their kids are young. Whether you decide to go local or international, Vienna’s schools will have something for you.

Further reading

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