Ethics – compulsory subject for all pupils who do not attend Religious Education lessons at school
A National Council decision of 20 November 2020, Federal Law Gazette I no. 133/2020, amended the School Organisation Act and introduced Ethics as a compulsory subject at upper secondary level for all pupils who do not attend Religious Education lessons. This has integrated a long-standing school trial into the regular school system and created an additional education programme for pupils who do not practise a religion or who have withdrawn from Religious Education lessons.
Implementation guidelines for Religious Education and Ethics lessons were published in Circular 5/2021.
Objectives of Ethics lessons
Ethics lessons are based on a commitment to fundamental human rights and civil liberties. The aim of these lessons is to encourage independent and well-founded arguments and reflection in ethical and moral issues. They are intended to enable pupils to manage their lives successfully, to provide them with guidance and to teach them to explore in-depth the fundamental questions of life.
Ethics lessons are designed to contribute to the development of the individual pupils’ personalities as they explore various philosophical, ideological, cultural and religious traditions and views of humanity. The objective is to increase their willingness to assume responsibility for their own lives and coexistence with others in social, ecological, economic, political and cultural situations. Ethics lessons encourage pupils to address their own experiences of crises and to develop a sense of their own effectiveness when acting independently. Pupils should also be able to be examined in Ethics as part of their Matura (university entrance examination).
Ethics school trial
Ethics school trials, which have taken place at upper secondary level (academic secondary schools, schools for intermediate vocational education and colleges for higher vocational education) for more than 20 years, are being phased out in parallel with the roll-out of Ethics lessons.
Roll-out of Ethics at upper secondary level
Roll-out began in the 2021/22 school year at academic secondary schools, schools for intermediate vocational education and colleges for higher vocational education at upper secondary level, including all special types of school, post-secondary VET colleges, evening classes for those in employment, etc. The curricula (Federal Law Gazette II no. 250/2021) are implemented within the particular school type from the lower grades up. However, in the case of post-secondary VET colleges or schools for those in employment, for example, this does not mean that Ethics or Religious Education would have to be taken beforehand at upper secondary level from the lower grades up and that Ethics would therefore only have to be implemented later. Under the School Organisation Act (Federal Law Gazette I no. 133/2020), Ethics must therefore also be offered as a compulsory subject in these school types from the start of the 2021/22 school year.
The curricula for the compulsory subject of Ethics at upper secondary level were enacted on 7 June 2021 (Federal Law Gazette II no. 250/2021).
Current requirements and the wealth of experiences from school trials have been incorporated into these curricula. The basic subject of study underlying Ethics lessons is philosophy. Related subjects include psychology, sociology, religious studies and theologies of religions as well as history, law, biology, economics and political science.
In parallel, basic ethical questions have been embedded in the curricula of Religious Education lessons at upper secondary level. These can be accessed via the following link:
Basic ethical questions in the curricula of Religious Education lessons at upper secondary level – guidelines
Education and teacher training courses
With Ethics being a compulsory subject at upper secondary level in which pupils at secondary schools can also choose to be examined as part of their Matura (university entrance examination), a university teacher training course is essential. As of the start of the 2021/22 academic year, Ethics is offered as a teacher training course at the following universities: Vienna, Innsbruck, Graz, Salzburg, Klagenfurt, Catholic Private University Linz. For the first few years, Ethics was taught at university colleges of teacher education, universities and the KPH Vienna/Krems as part of a university Ethics course (60 ECTS credits) until it was implemented as a teacher training course.
Master’s degree programmes
The University of Vienna and University of Graz offer master’s degree programmes in Ethics (120 ECTS credits). However, teaching roles also require an existing teaching licence for upper secondary level or lateral entry certification as set out on klassejob.at.
Credits and lateral entry (klassejob.at)
For a number of related university teaching licences (such as philosophy and psychology, theology and religious instruction), applications for credits must be made to the particular university at which the course is completed. Ethics teaching licences obtained in the past will not have to be renewed or supplemented and will remain valid.
Graduates with related university degrees who wish to enter the teaching profession from another field require lateral entry certification. The website klassejob.at provides detailed information about the certification process.
- University of Vienna – Ethics teacher training course
- University of Vienna – master’s course in Ethics
- University of Graz – master’s course in Ethics
- University of Salzburg – Ethics teacher training course
- University of Innsbruck – Ethics teacher training course
- Private University College of Teacher Education Burgenland
- University College of Teacher Education Carinthia
- University College of Teacher Education Lower Austria
- University College of Teacher Education Upper Austria
- University College of Teacher Education Salzburg
- University College of Teacher Education Styria
- University College of Teacher Education Vorarlberg
- University College of Teacher Education Vienna
- Private University College of Teacher Education Augustinum
- Church College of Teacher Education Tyrol Edith Stein
- University College of Christian Churches of Teacher Education Vienna/Krems
- Private University of Education, Diocese of Linz
- Austrian Federal Association of Ethics Teachers
- Basic ethical questions in the curricula of Religious Education lessons at upper secondary level – guidelines (BMBWF)
Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research
Head of the Policy Department, Multidisciplinary Skills, School Communities, School Day Care
T +43 1 53120 2540