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Credit: Miriam Lottes

Free learning support at Viennese schools

In order to provide equal opportunities for all children, the City of Vienna launched the “Förderung 2.0“ programme in 2014. It offers free learning support for pupils aged 6 to 14 years and thereby reduces the parents’ financial and time pressure.

Thus, the “Förderung 2.0“ contributes to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its aim to promote equal educational opportunities to children, independent of their social and economic background.

The problem

The Austrian school system is predominantly based on morning classes. Pupils leave school at around 1 pm and do their assignments at home, either independently or with the support of their parents. A survey amongst Viennese parents (AK‐Study: Tuition in Vienna, May 2014) showed that 56% of the parents support their children with their homework several times a week. Nearly one third (32%) pay for extra tuition in order to ensure success at school. This leads to unequal opportunities for pupils depending on the educational background and financial means of their families.

A solution

The Wiener Volkshochschulen (Vienna Community Colleges) have been commissioned to design and implement the free learning support programme for pupils aged 10 to 14 years. Courses for German, English and Mathematics are available once a week. Following a low‐threshold approach, they are held directly at the respective schools. Since February 2015, more than 1000 tuition courses have taken place each semester.

Additionally, the Wiener Volkshochschulen host the so‐called “Lernstationen”. These learning stations are open Mondays to Thursdays in the afternoon. Registration is not required. Pupils may come to these learning stations with their questions in German, English and Mathematics and stay until these questions are answered. Here, the young participants decide by themselves when they arrive and how long they stay.

Considering Vienna’s diversity, the newest addition to the programme are courses called “Deutsch Basis & Mehr” (“German Basics & More”). These learning support courses for German as a second language take place in youth centres, encouraging the participants to take part in the leisure time activities offered by these centres.

The evaluation

In 2017 a team of the company Social Research GmbH conducted an evaluation of the programme. The evaluation is comprised of interviews with almost 1.400 children who had attended courses. Additionally, more than 400 parents, 300 learning coaches (LernbetreuerInnen) and 400 heads of schools and teachers were asked to give their opinion on the free learning support programme.

The results prove that the programme reaches its main target group: two thirds of the parents could not afford paid tuition and 87% of the children reported that they speak German and another language or only other languages than German at home (others: reported that German is not their first language in family communication).

Motivation for participation

Pupils and parents were asked for their motivation to participate in free learning support programme. 87% of pupils gave prevention of negative grades and interest in higher education as their motivation. Furthermore, roughly 80% found it easier to study within the setting of the courses than at home and felt learning in a group more fun than learning alone. Most parents wanted their children to continue to high school and gave this educational aspiration as an important motivator to register for learning support courses. Secondly, they could not afford paid tuition.

Benefits

Pupils and parents were interviewed concerning the perceived benefits of the free learning support programme. The most important benefit the pupils named was that they do not need any other tuition. They also appreciated that they do not need to learn alone and that they have quiet surroundings for study. 40% of the parents agreed with their children on this benefit. Moreover, the parents stated they perceive higher self-confidence in their children, they received better grades and that learning is generally easier for them.

Pupils and parents were asked to assess their learning coaches. Especially the pupils gave an overwhelmingly positive rating to their learning coaches. The learning coaches are perceived as friendly and patient. Pupils noticed that learning coaches explain even difficult topics in an easily understandable way and repeat explanations as often as needed. 80% or more children were satisfied with every aspect of their learning coaches’ work. 86% of the parents stated that their children feel comfortable within courses, that the learning coaches do well at explaining topics to their children and at attending to each child individually.

The free learning support programme has been highly successful at supporting pupils in their education. Adaptions suggested by the evaluation will be taken into consideration and put into practice where possible.

If you are interested in finding out more about the free learning support programme register for the Child in the City World Conference in Vienna to hear more from Daniela Ecker-Stepp who is a speaker during the Parallel Session: Access to cultural institutions. 

Author: Daniela Ecker-Stepp

Daniela Ecker-Stepp is the Head of Free Learning Support, Die Wiener Volkshochschulen (Vienna Community Colleges). Before that, she worked as a teacher at an Austrian High School. A major concern of her work is to provide equal opportunities for all children, regardless of the income or the knowledge of the parents. 

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