Projekte: Indikatorenentwicklung und Monitoring

Urban education in Austria

In Austria, the degree of urbanisation is low and stagnating, and the regional structure is heavily politicised because of a complex federalist structure. A long tradition of political struggles along rural-urban and political right-left lines concerns federalism, in particular related to education. The overall Vienna metropolitan region is divided into the state of Vienna as a federalist unit, and its surrounding areas as part of the surrounding and competing state of Lower Austria. Vienna with its long social democratic tradition has been the centre of a partisan attempt towards school reforms after World War 1 which still divides education policy along the promotion of the tracked school from age ten (rural) vs. a comprehensive school at least until age fourteen (urban).
The political discourses about education are mainly situated at the central level, and follow a one-size-fits-all approach guided by an ‘average’-image of the education structure without taking into account the urban-rural distinctions. The urban status of Vienna as a minority of one among nine federal units appears as exceptional and ‘problematic’, measured not against the standards of urban education but against rural conditions. Consequently, the issues of urban education are not tackled as serious issues to be resolved, but ‘repressed’ in the old Freudian manner behind an average overall structure; consequently the specific conditions in the urban regions (beyond Vienna there are two quite dense urban regions of Linz and Graz) are not sufficiently visible – so we speak about a hidden urbanisation process around cities.
In a ‘reversed’ political agenda the focus is laid more on the rural conditions, comprising a wide network of small schools, and an uneven distribution of upper level schools between rural and urban regions. Thus educational opportunities are unevenly distributed and education policy could not cope well with the phenomenon of (urban) immigration.
The chapter describes this situation and its emergence based on literature and data analysis. Its focus is on politics and policy, showing how the basic structures and related political practices can mask the issues of urban education and lead to a neglect of the related challenges.