2.9. Educational Guidance Services
The wealth of different educational careers and the growing differentiation of career and training courses at school require in-depth and efficient counselling. Counselling is part of the educational mandate schools have to fulfil and thus one of the duties of the headmasters and of all teachers at a school. Equally, career counselling forms an important part of the work of school psychologists. The School Psychological and Guidance Service is open to all persons and institutions involved in school education (students at all types of schools, their parents or guardians, teachers). Scientific findings and approaches are directly implemented. Austria has currently 140 educational psychologists at approx. 70 counselling centres. In educational counselling, school psychologists act at various levels: they offer one-to-one guidance (individual professional guidance), they develop and participate in the initial and further training measures for specific teachers (student and career counsellors), they inform the public about educational programmes by issuing special brochures, and they act as an information exchange and co-ordinate staff of the various institutions.
2.9.1. Educational guidance services at the first defining moment in guidance
The headmaster decides on a child’s admission to the first year of schooling and thus exercises some form of counselling. Subject to the consent of the parents, he may consult with an educational psychologist. Parents may directly seek the help of an educational psychologist, in order to have their child examined and to obtain advice.
Guidance at the transition from primary education ( Volksschule ) to secondary level I ( Hauptschule or the Allgemeinbildende höhere Schule ) will mainly come from the class teacher. Again, parents may directly seek the help of an educational psychologist, in order to have their child examined and to obtain advice.
2.9.2. School guidance services at the second defining moment in guidance
While there is little differentiation at secondary level I, the Austrian system of education offers widely differentiated career choices from grade 9 onwards. Educational guidance at Austria’s secondary schools is provided by specially-trained teachers in co-operation with the “School Psychological and Guidance Services”.
Students’ counsellors are installed at the Hauptschule and the Allgemeinbildenden höheren Schulen , and career counsellors at Berufsbildende mittlere Schulen and Berufsbildende höhere Schulen . They are teachers who fulfil a full teaching assignment and are exempted for a certain number of hours for their guidance activities. The educational psychologists advise the students’ and career counsellors on technicalities, they provide supervision and practical assistance in difficult cases. Whenever the use of scientific methods (psychological testing) is necessary to identify existing interests and potentials, and whenever parents or guardians wish to do so, they may turn to an educational psychologist to have their child tested and to obtain advice.
The initial and in-service training of students’ and career counsellors follows a curriculum which is permanently updated. These training programmes convey not only the required factual knowledge (e.g. possibilities of transition, overview of different school and study forms), but also counselling skills, especially when dealing with students’ problems and conflicts as a first contact. Permanently updated information materials and a computer-assisted information and expert systems effectively aid the students’ and career counsellors in their activities. These teachers at general schools, and at technical and vocational schools, use manifold opportunities to build contacts (e.g. open days at universities and higher schools) to be able to provide interested students with hands-on information on career choices.
Work placement schemes run by the Arbeitsmarktservice offer additional vocational counselling (start of working life). Career Information Centres advise and inform young people on the different career options.
In Polytechnischen Schulenspecially trained teachers of vocational subjects offer vocational information and orientation. In this connection the “Work-Placement Days” to the extent of 7 school days have special significance. During these days the pupils have the possibility of familiarising themselves hands-on with apprenticeship training in a company.