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Reference WIFI Academy courses in Austria
What works well in this scheme? The Austrian education system is characterised by a variety of training courses and programmes they include full-time school-oriented options and those with an orientation towards professional practice. One of the most frequented forms of learning is the apprenticeship  training approx. 40% of Austrian youth of each age group learn their profession in the framework of the dual system a form of training combining school-based education and training in the company. A possible weak point of this training form that is mentioned are reduced chances of obtaining higher qualification in the direction of general education, and here mainly the lacking opportunity of access to university education. This gap is closed by the "WIFI-Fachakademien" (the specialised academies, or colleges, of the Economic Promotion Institute of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber) where skilled workers are offered both subject-related, technical and general-education qualifications (incl. the university study qualification) to upgrade their skills. This possibility of taking the "Berufsreifeprüfung" Examination fulfils the wish for "permeability" in the Austrian education system. 
    The legal foundation for this option is the Austrian Berufsreifeprüfung Act (Federal Legal Gazette I 68/1997), which came into force as of September 1997. Since then, apprenticeship graduates, graduates of secondary technical and vocational schools of at least three years' duration, and graduates of nursing courses or of specialist paramedical courses of at least 30 months' duration have had the possibility of taking the "Berufsreifeprüfung" on the basis of the practise-oriented knowledge and skills acquired during their vocational training. This examination is equal to the "Reifeprüfung" Examination obtained at secondary academic schools in so far as it provides higher education entrance qualifications for Austrian universities and "Fachhochschulen" (Universities of Applied Sciences) as well as for attendance of post-secondary courses in TVE, etc. and is considered as fulfilment of requirements for higher-level positions at least in the public sector. The introduction of the "Berufsreifeprüfung" marks the first time in Austria that practical knowledge and skills acquired in the course of professional experience is formally treated equal to theoretical knowledge acquired at school. 
What are the problems with this scheme? The "WIFI-Fachakademien" offer apprenticeship graduates the possibility of improving their subject-related as well as their general knowledge and skills. This programme can be taken advantage of only by a small part of this group (approx. 300 per year group), however, since it takes a long time (6 semesters of evening courses) and may be considered costly (up to ATS 100,000). In addition, participants are faced with high demands as far as their learning capacities are concerned. The "WIFI-Fachakademien" may, therefore, be called rather a "minority programme". They do not solve the education-related training problem of the so-called "low achievers", which we are increasingly faced with these days. 
What can be learned from other schemes? In Austria, both initial vocational training (the apprenticeship training) and further training courses (e.g. the "WIFI-Fachakademien") are designed as complete, all-inclusive training programmes. This implies that an interruption or a premature drop-out is tantamount to a complete drop-out from the programme. Therefore programmes that are designed in accordance with the modular system give new impulses to the Austrian vocational education and training system. A first step in this direction was made in connection with the "WIFI-Fachakademien" already in autumn 1998. The curriculum was changed in a way that subject-specific contents are now offered in the first two years, whereas general subjects are taught in the third. (Up to that time they had been taught parallel in all three years.) This new scheme allows participants who want to do the subject-oriented part only to complete the programme after 4 semesters; they can do the academic part later or do only one of the two parts. 
Further reading > Analysis of scheme > topic study  > National conclusions
Author Monika Thum-Kraft (Januar 2000)

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 First set up 19/01/2000
Latest update: 19/01/2000
 Contact: Sabine Manning