The Austrian Federal Ministry for Education (BMB) works with provincial school boards to place approximately 140 US teaching assistants at schools in all nine Austrian provinces. USTAs are present in more than 200 schools and 1,820 classrooms in any given week, during which they have contact with an estimated 40,000 students.
Applicants may request to be assigned to particular province, city, or region. However, the number of teaching positions available in larger metropolitan areas, such as Vienna, Salzburg, Graz, and Innsbruck, is limited. Applicants should therefore be prepared to live and teach in smaller, less metropolitan or more rural communities. Applicants are also encouraged to read the section about the structure of the Austrian secondary school system, since applicants can indicate placement preferences (in terms of school focus) at the time of application. Where possible, the Fulbright Austria will take a candidate's work and academic background, as well as placement preferences into consideration when placing applicants.
The Austrian School System
Perhaps the largest difference between the Austrian and the American public secondary school systems is that Austrian children are placed in a specific academic or vocational track quite early – as young as 10. There are currently major educational reforms underway conceived to eliminate that practice. Austrian students are divided into two major groups after the completion of 4th grade (which ends the primary school, or Volksschule). At that point, a children's parents have to chose between the Gymnasium, the university-preparatory track, and the Hauptschule, which has more vocational focus.
The Gymnasium continues from American grades 5 through 12 (though numbering starts over at the beginning of Gymnasium, so these are Austrian grades 1-8.). The Gymnasium generally follows a liberal arts model, though there is more focus on 'core subjects' rather than electives as compared to an American high school. At some Gymnasia the students can focus on a particular field of study, such as languages or natural sciences, while continuing their general education. At the end of a student's Gymnasium years, the student takes a comprehensive school-leaving exam and is granted the Matura, a diploma or higher secondary school leaving certificate that entitles the student to enroll in most Austrian university programs.
The Gymnasium is referred to as an Allgemeine Höhere Schule (AHS) because it provides a higher level of general education for those who will presumably proceed to university and pursue professional careers. There is also a second branch of secondary schools that grant the Matura called Berufsbildende Mittlere und Höhere Schulen, or BMHS.
After the first four years of Gymnasium or Hauptschule (see below) (American 8th grade/Austrian 4th form), students can elect to leave the AHS's general curriculum to attend a Berufsbildende Mittlere und Höhere Schule (BMHS). In a BMHS, the student completes the general education necessary to receive the Matura and continue on to university, while concurrently completing vocational training in a specific field. Students at a BHS generally spend an extra year in secondary school (graduating at 19) because their vocational training requires extra coursework.There are many different types of BMHS, which train students in fields ranging from various branches of engineering (Höhere Technische Lehranstalt – HTL) over business and tourism (Handelsakademie – HAK) to kindergarten teaching (Bildungsanstalt für Kindergartenpädagogik - BAKIP) just to mention a few of the many fields of specialization. Upon graduation, students can continue to university or work in the field for which they have been trained.
The Neue Mittelschule continues for another 4 years after the Volksschule, along the same lines as the Gymnasium but with a more vocational and less academic focus. Upon completion, superior students may be in the position to transfer to an AHS or BMHS to get the Matura and become eligible for university. However, more typically students from the Neue Mittelschule go on to the Berufschule and Lehre, where they receive further training in their field while performing an apprenticeship. There are over 250 recognized trades in this track, ranging from opticians to hair stylists, and printers.
Teaching assistants generally only work with students over the age of ten. They will be assigned to an AHS (Allgemeinbildende Höhere Schule - general higher secondary school) or BMHS (Berufsbildende Mittlere und Höhere Schule - higher secondary school with a vocational or technical specialization)