I am well into the swing of my semester abroad in Salzburg, Austria. I am enrolled on an international course at a teaching university (Pädagogische Hochschule Salzburg) which means my class is made up of student teachers from many different European countries and we are taught in English. A diverse class such as this makes for very interesting discussion in my classes especially ‘Challenges and Perspectives in European Education Systems’.
Class sizes in the university are small and this is also true in the primary schools where they have approximately half the number of children as in a British primary school. Other big differences include starting school at age six, a lot more independent learning, shorter school days (7:45-12:00), more informal teaching and less technology.
I have been lucky enough to secure a placement in a primary school here. This is possible as I am working in an ‘International Class’ where all subjects are taught in English except for German. The class is an incredible group of children who are a very mixed-age class (6-10 years old!) and have different abilities in understanding English. As a student teacher there is no higher challenge in differentiated learning! This class is part of the ‘Praxisvolkschule’ (literally a ‘primary school for practice’) which is a primary school run by the university in university owned buildings. There is a similarly run lower and upper secondary school. As a parent it is desirable to have your child attend the Praxisvolkschule even though there are clear pros and cons of your child being in a school that experiments with new ideas in teaching. I have internally debated the ethics of it…
Studying here is giving me the opportunity to learn German and take education, history and culture modules which I am thoroughly enjoying. Salzburg is a city not usually considered by student teachers at York St John for the Study Abroad programme but it is a city full of marvels which must be considered by all in the second year who are considering a semester abroad.