European-Reading-Network - Vienna

For Teachers – National Analyses of the State of Art

National Analyses of the State of Art
Austrian National Report

(European-Reading-Network – Vienna)


This is a report on the situation in Austria with regard to the “children inspiring children approach” and to the connection between a positive assessment of the cultural diversity and the social integration in a multicultural Europe.


  1. The national context of Austria.
  2. Definition of cultural diversity, cultural heritage and their intersection, with particular attention to the situation of minorities.
  3. The situation of cultural heritage in Austria. Inventory of the Cultural heritage of Austria.
  4. National Programmes focusing on cultural heritage.
  5. Previous research on “children inspiring children” methodology. (Reflections on methods that include the “children inspiring children approach”).
  6. Previous research on methodological tools (collaborative art design, intercultural online pedagogy, collaborative storytelling and poetry). Selected methods that can be used within the EUROCHANGE project.
  7. Conclusions (regarding the expectations of the EUROCHANGE project).
  8. References
1. The national context of Austria

From a historical point of view, the Austrian cultural heritage originated in prehistoric times. Valuable finds from this time are now exhibited in various museums (for example the Venus of Willendorf, grave goods from the Hallstatt period, etc.).

The first constructions on the territory of today’s Austria were established by the Celts, and over time have been incorporated in the Roman Empire. There are numerous sites from this period (for example the town of Carnuntum near Vienna). After the decline of the Roman Empire, during the Middle Ages, numerous monasteries and fortified castles were built. At that time, the Land consisted mainly of forests. Only near the monasteries and castles, the sparsely populated country was urbanized or used for agriculture. Gradually, Austria came under the rule of the dynasty of the Babenberger and rose from a margraviate to the duchy. Vienna became the capital of the Babenberger Empire. While agriculture prevailed near the monasteries and castles, a craft guild system and a growing merchant community developed in the cities. In the rural regions with their castle in centre, developed the culture of Knighthood. Magnificent tournaments were organized and the literary form of knightly-courtly love poetry and song were developed.

In the middle ages, the Pope called on the kings and their military retinue to go to Palestine in order to liberate the holy places of Christianity from the Mohammedan rule, and then numerous crusades followed. The encounter of the knights with the achievements of the Arab peoples, as well as with the Byzantine civilization and culture formed a significant cultural interface. New needs in terms of clothing, food and spices, textiles, jewellery, etc. arose and had to be satisfied. This brought tremendous impulses for the trade and commerce – especially in the urban areas.

Towards the end of the 13th century, the Habsburgs took over the reign of Austria. With the time a vast multi-ethnic state emerged, which to this day determines the Austria's cultural heritage.

In the first phase of the Habsburg rule, numerous Gothic buildings were constructed. The St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna is considered a particularly important Gothic building.

Then came the time of the Renaissance, an art movement emanating from Italy. Although an independent Danube school developed in the field of painting, the influences of Italy and the Netherlands were obvious. The mural painting was widely spread through the new technique of sgraffito.

Sculpture gained greater independence. The secular architecture also produced significant achievements (for example, Porcia Castle, Schallaburg Castle, Tratzberg Castle, Stallburg Palace of the Vienna Hofburg, etc.).

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries dominated a European style, which today is generally referred to as a cultural-historical epoch of the Baroque. With the Counter-Reformation, the development of courtly culture reached a climax in all sectors of arts. After the end of the second Viennese Turkish siege, the end of a centuries-long hostility to the Ottoman Empire and the conquest of vast territories began a very lively construction activity, which formed the basis for the development of all other areas of arts. Although there was a political rivalry with France, the splendour of the Sun King Louis XIV influenced Fischer von Erlach's ideal planning of Schönbrunn Palace, the magnificent buildings which Lucas von Hildebrand constructed for Prince Eugen (for example Belvedere Palace), or Melk Abbey built by the famous Baroque architect Jakob Prandtauer.

There was also an enormous expansion in the field of music, due to the development of instrument making. At the Habsburg court, it came to the flourishing of the opera, which was initially influenced entirely by Italy (Muffat, Monteverdi, etc.). Subsequently, the nobility became the supporter of the musical life, as for example, Prince Esterhazy in Eisenstadt, yet Vienna remained the capital of Austrian musical life. From the musical Rococo developed Viennese Classicism with its famous representatives Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Theatre buildings were constructed everywhere in the Austrian Empire. In these theatres great operas, singing plays and musically interspersed plays were performed. This development was promoted by the increasing interest of the citizens in musical events and in other cultural areas.

After the end of the Napoleonic wars, Austria experienced a cultural peak, although – or perhaps just because of that – the state chancellor Metternich led a repressive regime on behalf of the Habsburg emperor.

In the field of music, the most important representative among the numerous composers of the Romanticism was Franz Schubert. In aristocratic and bourgeois salons, house music was offered. Music clubs were founded in the large cities and some of their orchestras and choirs still exist today (for example, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra).

In the second half of the 19th century and at the turn of the century, Austrian musical life developed to new highlights. This was especially evident in the symphonic works of Johannes Brahms, Anton Bruckner and Gustav Mahler. Strauss, Josef Lanner and Franz von Suppe's famous dances (waltzes, polkas...) and operettas, were created and staged at that time. Later Franz Lehar “became the creator of the sophisticated light music”.

In the field of literature, the question of whether a specific Austrian literature exists in the German-speaking area is being discussed to this day. The fact is that in all the provinces of the Habsburg monarchy German was the official language and until the beginning of the 20th century many writers wrote their works in German (for example Franz Kafka, Karl Emil Franzos, etc.). Hence, there is a tendency to assign these works to the Austrian cultural heritage.

At the first half of the nineteenth century a number of important poets suddenly appeared – Franz Grillparzer, Adalbert Stifter, Ferdinand Raimund, Johann N. Nestroy, Nikolaus Lenau, Marie Ebner-Eschenbach, and Ferdinand Saar. Bound at the beginning to the romantic fairy tale, the literary development moved subsequently towards social criticism and naturalism, especially after the revolutionary events of 1848.

In the second half of the 19th century, the rapid development of the railway network in the monarchy and the development of the national self-confidence of individuals led to independent cultural movements in Hungary, Bohemia and Moravia etc., which were in constant exchange with each other.

Especially the imperial metropolis Vienna became the multicultural focal point, and the multinational centre of the empire. With the demolition of the fortifications and the construction of the legendary Viennese Ringstraße with its buildings in the style of historicism, Vienna experienced a final cultural boom in all areas of art and science.

The First World War was a terrible turning point. The territory of Austria shrank from the former multi-ethnic state to a small remnant. The First Republic was proclaimed (1918-1933).

After 1918, Vienna experienced to a certain extent a cultural golden age. A culture from which benefited primarily the socially disadvantaged was developed. Known was the municipal housing construction (for example, the Karl-Marx-Hof). With the Austrofascism (1933-1938) began a cultural decline, which reached its absolute low point with the extinction of the state of Austria through the incorporation of the “Ostmark” into the national socialist German Reich. Only with the reestablishment of the republic in the year 1945, a cultural ascent could begin anew.

2. Definition of cultural diversity, cultural heritage and their intersection, with particular attention to the situation of minorities

Cultural Heritage is an expression of the ways of living developed by a community and passed on from generation to generation, including customs, practices, places, objects, artistic expressions and values. Cultural Heritage is often expressed as either Intangible or Tangible Cultural Heritage (ICOMOS, 2002). As part of human activity, Cultural Heritage produces tangible representations of the value systems, beliefs, traditions and lifestyles. As an essential part of culture as a whole, Cultural Heritage, contains these visible and tangible traces from antiquity to the recent past.

Cultural Heritage is a wide concept.

Cultural Heritage types:

Cultural Heritage can be distinguished in:

Tangible & Intangible Heritage:

Having at one time referred exclusively to the monumental remains of cultures, cultural heritage as a concept has gradually come to include new categories. Today, we find that heritage is not only manifested through tangible forms such as artefacts, buildings or landscapes but also through intangible forms. Intangible heritage includes voices, values, traditions, oral history. Popularly this is perceived through cuisine, clothing, and forms of shelter, traditional skills and technologies, religious ceremonies, performing arts, storytelling. Today, we consider the tangible heritage inextricably bound up with the intangible heritage.

A special position in Austria have the minorities that remained in the Austrian republic from the multi-ethnic state of the monarchy after 1918. For their protection, the so-called Ethnic Groups Act was issued (Federal Act of 7. 7. 1976 on the legal status of ethnic groups in Austria). The Act about the Peoples groups (Volksgruppengesetz) defines ethnic groups living in parts of the federal territory as groups of Austrian nationals with non-German mother tongues and their own culture and traditions. The preservation of ethnic groups and the safeguarding of their existence should be ensured by the following instruments:

  1. Establishment of ethnic group advisory councils to advise the Federal Government and the Federal Ministers on ethnic minority issues. Now (since 2000), the Federal Government has established ethnic group advisory councils for Croats, Slovenes, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks and Roma.
  2. Financial support as well as other supporting measures.
  3. 2-language topographical designations in defined areas.
  4. For certain services and authorities the language of the ethnic group may be used as an official language; in dealing with these authorities, everyone has the right to use the language of the ethnic group. In 2000, the basic rights of the ethnic groups were involved in the Austrian Federal Constitution. This includes the right to education in the autochthonous language – from kindergarten to high school graduation. This has been largely involved, at least up to the secondary level I. In addition, there are numerous cultural associations, in which the indigenous cultural heritage is maintained and further developed.

Austria is considered a traditional asylum country, which has repeatedly taken unselfishly refugees in times of crisis, especially from the eastern states: Hungary refugees in 1956, refugees from Czechoslovakia after the suppression of the “Prague Spring” in 1968 and refugees from Poland in 1980 after the imposition of martial law in Poland.

People from Serbia make part of the Serb diaspora in Austria and are regarded as the largest migrant group in the country, alongside with Germans and those from Turkey. Turks in Austria are colloquially referred to Turks living in Austria as well as to Austrian citizens with a Turkish migration background. Now they are – after German and Serbian people – the third largest migration group in Austria. The recent influx of people from abroad, which for the most part moved to Austria for economic reasons, led to an increasingly xenophobic mood, which ultimately led to the tightening of Austrian “immigration laws”; the result is that currently migration rates are significantly declined.

3. The situation of cultural heritage in Austria

On December 18th 1992, the Republic of Austria ratified the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. It entered into force three months later, on March 18th 1993. By signing, Austria undertook the protection and preservation of the cultural and natural heritage sites of exceptional universal value within its borders, as well as offering international assistance and assistance under the Convention.

With the nomination and inclusion of a site in the World Heritage List, each site must also submit a comprehensive management plan and appoint a World Heritage Manager. To be a world heritage is not a one-time award, but a constant effort to keep the site unique and beautiful for future generations.

Since then, 10 sites from Austria have been included in the World Heritage List. Sites are only included in the World Heritage List if they meet at least one of the ten criteria set out in the Convention, as well as the criteria of “uniqueness” and “authenticity” (in the case of cultural sites) or “integrity” (in the case of natural sites). Inclusion in the World Heritage List is a distinction and an obligation at the same time: the sites must be maintained in terms of their existence and value through appropriate management and national protection measures for future generations.

Inventory of Cultural Heritage of Austria

Tangible Heritage:

The City of Graz – Historic Centre and castle Eggenberg

For centuries, around the castle hill with the famous clock tower, a cityscape has developed, which shows the most important architectural styles since the Middle Ages, beginning from Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Historicism and Art Nouveau to contemporary architecture with its impressive buildings. Incidentally, the visitor gains a special impression of the life in the Middle Ages in the world-famous armoury.

The streets and alleys of Graz also testify to the cultural significance of a city in which art and culture are also decisive in everyday life.

The baroque castle Eggenberg, built after 1625 by the Italian Pietro de Pomis as the residence of the imperial governor Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg (1568-1634), with its 24 state rooms – with the large planetary room in the centre – and the cycle of over 500 ceiling paintings of the 17th Century represents a symbolic image of the universe.

Semmering Railway

The technical and architectural masterpiece Semmering Railway was built in just six years, between 1848 and 1954, over the almost 1,000-meter-high pass (then the highest rail-accessible point in the world). This railway, built over 41 km of high mountains, is one of the greatest feats of civil engineering from this pioneering phase of railway building. The high standard of the tunnels, viaducts and other works has ensured the continuous use of the line up to the present day. It runs through a spectacular mountain landscape. The track was already understood in its time as a harmonious combination of technology and nature and continues to shape this unique cultural landscape.

Hallstatt-Dachstein / Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape

In the midst of the legendary Salzkammergut lies a pearl of a special kind at the foot of the mighty Dachstein: the historic cultural landscape with Hallstatt, Gosau, Obertraun and Bad Goisern. Human activity in this magnificent natural landscape began in prehistoric times, with the salt deposits being exploited as early as the second millennium BC. This resource formed the basis of the area’s prosperity up to the middle of the 20th century, a prosperity that is reflected in the fine architecture of the town of Hallstatt.

Neusiedlersee Cultural Landscape

Puszta and reed belts come together at the Central Europe's largest steppe lake, and meet lovely vineyards on a wide horizon. Nominated jointly by Austria and Hungary, this cross-border area stretches from the lowlands across the lake and its huge reed belt to picturesque villages, magnificent vineyards and extensive pastures. The Neusiedler Lake area has been the meeting place of different cultures for eight millennia. As result of that, an evolutionary symbiosis between human activity and the physical environment was achieved. The remarkable rural architecture of the villages surrounding the lake and several 18th and 19th century palaces add to the area’s considerable cultural interest.

Historic Centre of the City of Salzburg

Salzburg was a prime example of a European ecclesiastical city-state, resulting in many important buildings, mostly from the Gothic and Baroque periods. Salzburg is also well known for its associations with the arts, especially with the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn

From the 18th century to 1918, Schönbrunn was the summer residence of the Habsburg emperors. It was designed by the architects Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and Nicolaus Pacassi and is full of outstanding examples of decorative art. Together with its spacious gardens, the site of the world’s first zoo (created 1752) this is a remarkable Baroque ensemble.

Wachau Cultural Landscape

The Wachau is a 40 km long valley along the Danube river between Melk and Krems. The valley was settled in prehistoric times and has been an important region since then. This short section of the Danube becomes a historic cultural landscape of particular value due to the diverse landscape structure, the important cultural monuments and small-town ensembles. Natural landscapes – such as the winding Danube valley, alluvial forests, rugged rock formations – and man-made elements – such as the wine-growing terraces, typical villages and corridors, pens, castles, ruins – complement each other harmoniously. It is home to a number of historic towns, villages, monasteries, castles and ruins.

Historic Centre of Vienna

Vienna's historic centre is one of the most beautiful city monuments in Europe. Three epochs characterize the former residence of the Habsburg emperors: the Middle Ages with the Gothic St. Stephen's Cathedral, the Baroque period, whose most significant heritage is the Hofburg with its lush domes and the Ringstraße era of the late 19th century, where magnificent buildings such as the State Opera and the Kunsthistorisches Museum were created.

Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps

This serial property of 111 small individual sites encompasses the remains of prehistoric pile dwelling (or stilt house) settlements in and around the Alps built from around 5000 to 500 B.C. on the edges of lakes, rivers or wetlands. Excavations, only conducted in some of the sites, have yielded evidence that provides insight into life in prehistoric times during the Neolithic and Bronze Age in Alpine Europe and the way communities interacted with their environment. In addition to Austria, prehistoric sites are situated in Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy and Slovenia. At three Austrian lakes, there are important sites of the pile-dwelling culture – the Attersee and the Mondsee in Upper Austria as well as the Keutschachersee in Carinthia.

Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe

The Kalkalpen National Park is the epitome of a forest wilderness. It extends over the densely wooded mountain ranges. With its 209 square kilometres this is the Forest National Park of Austria, three-quarters of this area is wilderness. This transboundary property stretches over 12 countries. Since the end of the last Ice Age, European Beech spread from a few isolated refuge areas in the Alps, Carpathians, Dinarides, Mediterranean and Pyrenees over a short period of a few thousand years in a process that is still ongoing. The successful expansion across a whole continent is related to the tree’s adaptability and tolerance of different climatic, geographical and physical conditions. The site is a part of transnational site, also shared with Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Ukraine.

Linz – UNESCO City of Media Arts

With the title “UNESCO City of Media Arts”, Linz was established as a centre of media art and was nominated one of the world's most forward-looking places, together with Lyon, Sapporo, Tel Aviv and Dakar. Therefore, not only the view of the many historical sites in the foreground stands for this city on the Danube.

Some examples of Intangible heritage

Last autumn Austria was celebrating the tenth anniversary of the ratification of the Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage.

At the beginning of October, 14 new entries were added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

Successful projects and measures for the preservation of the Intangible Cultural Heritage could be submitted to the Austrian UNESCO Commission as examples of good practices until 31 of December.

The aim of the presentation of such exemplary cases was “to identify, acknowledge and document the sustainable practice of transfer and innovative development.”

Among the new entries from all federal states were among others the following traditions:

4. National programmes focusing on cultural heritage

Different institutions in Austria organize national programmes and projects connected with the cultural heritage. The most important are the projects of the Austrian National Library and the Austrian Federal Monuments Office to mention only two of the numerous institutions. Different Museums and galleries also have special programmes for kids connected with the cultural heritage.

The Austrian National Library has special programmes for primary and secondary school children, called “Worlds of Knowledge”. The programmes are age specific oriented.

School classes visit the State Hall, the Papyrus museum and the Globe Museum of the Austrian National Library. Besides the guided tours, the students develop multimedia “guidebooks” for the Internet: In project work, they create their own contributions to exhibits chosen by them. The results are uploaded on Internet.

The National Library has recently introduced a new mediation program as an integration measure for students with a migration background! The one-hour events combine information with the promotion of understanding and acceptance of the Austrian culture. Life stories of famous female personalities such as Maria Theresia show the importance of a single human being. This programme is like all others also age specific oriented.

The Austrian Federal Monuments Office offers programmes for schools concerning the Austrian Cultural heritage.

Schools that do not want to spend a whole school year on project work and want to work on a specific topic, can do so in cooperation with the Federal Monuments Office. There are on the one hand individual projects dedicated to a particular topic, which run for a limited time, and on the other hand and parallel to them, there are ongoing co-operations with project schools or project classes over several school years.

Examples of some programmes of The Austrian Federal Monuments Office with schools:

Teaching materials to the UNESCO world heritage

In 2003, the Austrian UNESCO Commission developed a folder entitled “World Heritage for Young People” as a ring binder. At the end of September 2007, a teaching booklet for teachers on the Austrian World Heritage Sites was published under the title “World Heritage for Young People – Austria”. The interest of young people for the World Heritage should be awakened and lead to a confrontation with the Austrian “treasures of humanity”. Concrete examples and stories illustrate the peculiarities of the World Heritage Sites in Austria. In addition, similar World Heritage sites from other countries are presented.

Cultural diversity, cultural heritage and education in Austria

Excerpts from the Austrian primary and lower secondary education curricula (General provisions as well as some special provisions concerning cultural heritage, cultural diversity and social inclusion)

Primary School Curriculum

The first paragraph of the Austrian primary school curriculum deals with the general educational objectives. It states that young people “should be open to the political and ideological thinking of others, and be enabled to participate in the economic and cultural life of Austria, Europe and the world.”

The third and fourth paragraphs emphasize the importance of intercultural education:

“A special social educational task arises in elementary school where children with non-German mother tongue are taught in German. Here appears the necessity to enable intercultural learning. The aspects of intercultural learning, with particular regard to the cultural heritage of the respective ethnic group, will be especially effective in those federal states where Austrian and foreign children are taught together.

Aspects such as habits of life, language, customs, texts (for example narratives, fairy tales, legends), traditions, songs etc. are to be taken into consideration in the context of dealing with each other's cultural heritage. Intercultural learning is not limited to getting to know other cultures. Rather, it is about learning together and understanding, experiencing and shaping cultural values.”

It is also about arousing interest and curiosity in cultural differences, so that not only cultural common ground but also diversities can be experienced as valuable. In this context, intercultural learning should contribute to a better mutual understanding and mutual appreciation, to identify the common ground and to reduce prejudices. Based on school and extracurricular experiences with people from other European states, especially from the neighbouring states, intercultural learning should help to create European awareness and openness to the world. Links to the didactic principle of social learning and the teaching principle of political education, including peace education, must be ensured.

The curriculum supplement “German for students with non-German mother tongue” also underlines the importance of intercultural learning.

“The acquisition of the second language German by students with non-German mother tongue is a part of the variety of intercultural learning processes, which can be seen as a learning with and from each other by people of different cultures of origin and relates to each cultural area. Intercultural learning focuses on the specific living conditions of students with non-German mother tongue and those from migration groups. It aims to consider the problems that arise and to develop the willingness and ability to present aspects of one's own culture, to perceive, understand and critically examine the differences; to reduce existing prejudices against other cultures, relativize one's own culture and act according to these insights. At the same time, however, it is also important to preserve or build cultural self-esteem and cultural identity based on peacefulness and tolerance. At school, intercultural learning should be an opportunity for a content, which socially enriches all students in preparation for a life in a multicultural world. This embedding of the acquisition of second language in intercultural learning is intended to promote cooperative learning with each other and from each other.”

Curriculum of the New Middle School

Guiding principles

The education and training process takes place on the background of rapid social changes, especially in the areas of culture, science, economics, technology, environment and law. The participatory process in a common Europe, in a globally networked society with international markets leads to questions of intercultural encounters and challenges in the field of equal opportunities and gender equality. In this context, dealing with the regional, Austrian and European identity in terms of openness to the world is of particular importance. Mutual respect and recognition are important educational goals, especially in the context of the social interaction with diversity, difference and identity. In class communities of students with different mother tongues and different cultural backgrounds, the safe use of the language of instruction must pay special attention to the respectful treatment of linguistic diversity and the encounter of cultures in everyday life. Schools are encouraged by gender mainstreaming and gender equality to address the relevance of gender at all levels of teaching and learning.

General didactic principles:

Intercultural learning

The task of the intercultural learning is the understanding, experiencing and shaping of cultural values in joint learning and not just the imparting of knowledge about other cultures. Sensitivity to the mental and social situation of children with a migrant background is particularly important.

The cohesion in the classroom is promoted by the fact that all pupils as equal participants in the discourse community of the class bring in their special abilities and strengths, for example their multilingualism, and receive recognition for it. Intercultural education not only deals with issues of communication about linguistic differences, but also the relationships between languages and theirs cultural backgrounds, questions of exchange and understanding between groups of different linguistic, social, geographical or other origins, and involves questions of individual and social identity and the affiliation of strategies for dealing with cultural practices. Equivalence and equal validity are key terms that should guide the education of students towards acceptance, mutual respect and appreciation. The normality of the other should increasingly become a matter of course. Intercultural learning contributes to this by promoting and cultivating linguistic and cultural diversity in an inclusive learning culture.

Education Creativity and Structuring

Creating something new and verbally and nonverbally expressing thoughts and feelings are essential parts of human life. The students have to get the opportunity to make their own structuring (shaping) of experiences and to connect them with cognitive insights via meaningful approaches. This opens up for them the opportunity to discover and use individual skills and to deal with the forms of expression of their fellow human beings. This should give impulses for thinking in alternatives, for thinking in relative terms about one's own viewpoints, for development of a critical understanding of art and for recognition of diversity as a cultural quality. The creatively structured work should be experienced in the area of conflict between self-realization and social responsibility as individually enriching and giving raise to community.

The curriculum of general secondary schools (secondary level I) is almost identical to that of the middle school.

5. Previous research on children-inspiring-children methodology
Based on pedagogical impulses of the Montessori schools (“Help me to do it myself”) and the Freinet methods (“Give children the word”), in the Austrian alternative schools were developed such forms of instruction, in which the children are offered numerous opportunities to learn from each other and with each other. These methods are used in the Rudolf Steiner Schools. However, these schools are all private. In the state schools, elements of alternative forms of teaching and learning are also used. Partner work, group work, project lessons, open learning phases are already largely part of everyday school life. In school experiments, further elements of the reform pedagogy are being tested. We will illustrate this through the example of the school experiment “Wiener Reformpädagogische Mehrstufenklasse” (Viennese several level classes with a focus on Reform pedagogy).

In this model, diversity is not perceived as disturbing, rather as a learning opportunity and opportunity for all children to develop their personality.

The Viennese model “several-level classes with a focus on reform education” consciously preserves the “natural diversity”. 6-10 years old children live, work and learn together. They are also in the classroom together.

There are numerous ways to open the classroom, to make it more user-oriented, diverse and interesting for all ages and all learning levels.

  1. Opening the time frame.
  2. In this Viennese model, children can go through their elementary school years in 3 to 5 years without changing the class unit. This possibility takes account of the natural pace of development, which is very different in this age.

  3. Opening the social framework.
  4. Children learn and play with different partners regardless of their age, thus expanding their social skills. The pupils have the possibility to establish contacts with younger or older children as well as with children at the same-age. Several teachers are available as carers. Children with special needs find here ideal conditions.

  5. Opening the content frame.
  6. The teaching topics here are also proposed and introduced by children. Individual children, groups or the whole class deal with it.

  7. Open for different ways of working.
  8. A wide range of learning opportunities and a variety of work materials offer all types of learners the opportunity to acquire new content independently or accompanied.

  9. Opening the study room.
  10. During the free work time, children choose their own workplace. The best case is when there are several rooms available.

  11. Open the appraisal form.
  12. Commented direct performance templates, verbal assessment, school report cards and learning progress documentation illustrate the variety of learning. They place “the learning child” at the centre of consideration and document personal learning growth.

6. Previous research on methodological tools (collaborative art design, intercultural online pedagogy, collaborative storytelling and poetry). Selected methods that can be used within the EUROCHANGE project.

From everyday culture to cultural heritage

(Confrontation of children aged 9-12 years with the material and the intangible cultural heritage in the classroom)

Experience has shown that children of this age group are not timid when they encounter a variety of cultural manifestations, deal with them or get involved in them. Nevertheless, it is advisable to start with the everyday culture of the children, to pick them up there where children live and experience their culture every day – usually without realizing it.

The following examples are intended to illustrate which ways and means of encountering and dealing with cultural heritage can be explored, with special reference to the three main focuses of the EUROCHANGE project

Who are we?

Everybody has a surname and one or more first names

How we live?


Look on the internet for famous furniture workshops!

Where can you see old furniture exposed?

Decorate living spaces

We listen and make music:

Listen to music

Make music

Who plays one instrument or more?

Which instruments do you know?

With simple instruments, you can form a “class orchestra”. (In many schools, there is a complete ORFF (a complex of instruments to teach children music, named after the composer and musical teacher Carl Orff), or at least parts of it).

Other topics:

Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Classroom

Through the appropriate presentation of customs and practices should be created a new understanding of regional peculiarities worldwide and an important contribution to their preservation should be made.

Whether dance, theatre, music, customs, festivities, environmental protection, knowledge about the nature, or craft techniques – everything is carried on by human knowledge and ability.

In contact with places in their own country as well as with places worldwide, customs or practices could be introduced to each other. Here, the old as well as the new media have an essential role to play.

A supra-regional or international partnership would also help to get to know other traditions in addition to pride in one's own tradition, to understand and respect foreign customs and practices, and to prevent the formation of a nationalist worldview.

Intangible Cultural Heritage: Examples of Good Practices Wanted / UNESCO Commission Broadcast

Organizations (groups, associations, individuals) in Austria can submit examples of good practices concerning the Intangible Cultural Heritage in five categories:

  1. Transfer of knowledge
  2. Exploration and Documentation
  3. Preservation and Protection
  4. Support and Promotion
  5. Creative Sharing and Innovation

Together with experts from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Advisory Council, the Austrian UNESCO Commission selects from the submissions those projects and measures that best support and exemplify the objectives of the Convention.

Intangible cultural heritage involves five areas:

  1. Oral Traditions and Expressions, including Language as the bearer of the Intangible Cultural Heritage
  2. Performing arts such as dance, theatre, music, singing, etc.
  3. Social practices, rituals, festivities.
  4. Knowledge and practices in dealing with nature.
  5. Traditional craft techniques.

Selected examples from the UNESCO list “Austrian Cultural and Natural Heritage” can serve as a basis for teaching. By using different forms of working and learning, we can awaken the interest of the young target group.

For example, “Storytelling” is not only an art of entertainment in a playful and mentally stimulating way. It can also give information about the time of origin, place of action, people acting, desired behaviour, etc., and help create in the own imagination ideas about these distant times, creating game scenes and checking the plot for its effects. What role do magical beings play? What helps to accomplish the required tasks, and much more? (See also “Telling in the Montafon” – Local Tales and Tales with Contents, values of the 19th Century expressed through narrative communities.)

The research for “Slovenian land and farm names” is for example an important source for understanding the economic, social-historical and linguistic developments in the Carinthia borderland. This might be of interest not only for locals but also for visiting school classes. Detective activities could be organised (such as look for in libraries, interviews with locals, photo sessions to collect street names, monuments, peoples’ names, etc.), and afterwards presented and evaluated together.

The “Wiener Dudler” – an important part of the Viennese singing culture – and its origin, the differences with the yodeller can serve as basis of a musical project. This forms of singing can be compared with current music trends such as rap, and could challenge to create own lyrics and melodies, etc.

The “Österreichische Volkstanzbewegung” (Austrian Folkdance movement) offers another possibility of dealing with music. Here you have borrowings from rural traditions that are often recognizable only in remnants. These are not only collected and secured for posterity but also taught and thus saved from extinction. Colourful dance groups make performances at parties and festivities. Especially in the programmes of the Austrian TV, they visibly make a lot of fun and attract many tourists and locals as spectators.

The song “Silent Night (the Song for Christmas), composed in 1818 accompanies the Christmas Eve for many people around the world. At the same time, it also gives opportunity to compare our celebration of Christ's birth with similar celebrations in other cultures and religions. When do the most important festivities take place in the annual cycle and how they are celebrated?

The “Jew's harp play in Austria” is one of the oldest music kinds of humanity and is mainly distributed among the Asian peoples. It offers a good opportunity to get in contact with people from these cultures and to learn how it is played there, which other instruments it suits, and much more.

The “Hinterglasmalerei in Sandl” (Reverse Glass Painting in Sandl) will in turn appeal to a completely different target group. Here you can learn and practice manual skills. The result is achieved after a short time. This is often motivating to create presents for dear relatives and friends.

A special treasure in times of biological cultivation could be “the knowledge of traditional seeds selection and seeds preparation”. Old plant varieties played an important role in Austria despite its small-scale and often extreme locations. The knowledge of seed-growing, seed-harvesting, selection, purification and storage can also be transmitted in biology and environmental science in a practical and haptic way throughout the year. Waiting for the results increases the interest and provides excitement.

Since there are many natural and artificial ice rinks in Austria, with some skill also the “Rundtanzen am Eis” (Round dancing on Ice) can be tried. Through guidance by amateurs or ice dance professionals, youngsters will come to a satisfying result relatively quickly. This is extremely entertaining and can be a real alternative to ice hockey.

The various seasonal festivities in the different Austrian provinces and districts also create the opportunity to propose the contributors and audiences’ homemade food, sweets and drinks.

Thus, the participants get individual impressions and the public gets to know the tradition and cultural backgrounds.

7. Conclusions (regarding the expectations of the EUROCHANGE project)

In Austria, all students from the age of six must attend primary school – called elementary school. The Austrian school system stipulates that in the fourth Grade the teacher decides whether the pupil in lower secondary education has to attend the secondary compulsory school, the middle school, or attend the secondary general secondary school, the Gymnasium.

Countless studies have shown that teacher's decisions are significantly influenced by the parents' home, to the extent that pupils of educationally aware parents, who in most cases also have higher education themselves, are much better promoted compared to the pupils coming from non-educated parents.

In the middle of the 20th century, foreign workers were brought to Austria as part of the economic boom. Because of family reunification, children with non-German mother tongue increasingly came to the schools. In addition, children of refugees from the Yugoslav war came. After Austria's entry into the EU, the country was open to all EU citizens. The most lasting impact on schools lately was the wave of refugees by the Syrian war. This effect continues to this day and is a great challenge especially for the primary and secondary schools.

In high schools, the selection principle still prevails. Pupils who do not sufficiently master the subject matter must leave school.

In middle school, the promotion principle dominates – promotion of the talent potential of each student, compensation of insufficient knowledge, skills and abilities.

In a strange contrast to these problem areas, the school system also contains a lot of open space. The Austrian curricula give numerous impulses to practice modern teaching methods. The teacher enjoys freedom of method insofar as the method chosen by him/her corresponds to the contemporary didactics. The schools largely enjoy autonomy. Public schools adopt alternative forms of instruction or create their own alternative school models (learning workshops, multi-level classes, middle schools with artistic-creative focus, etc.).

Whether and to what extent they are implemented in the classroom depends on the teachers and school leaders in the respective schools. Of great importance is also the nature of the school climate.

Is the well-being of the student at the centre? Are partner work and group work often practiced? Is the headmaster open to alternative forms of teaching? Is he/she active in creating appropriate framework conditions (space, budget material planning)?

However, the need for support for those schools that have a high proportion of migrants is very high. For this reason, the project “EUROCHANCE – Children inspiring children approach” is certainly welcome. With the help of the material developed in the project, the children can acquire or expand the competence to bring their cultural heritage to other children. In this way, they would be able to contribute to social inclusion and to a multicultural Europe.

8. References: