1. Introduction

The Education Reform Act 2017 (Bildungsreformgesetz 2017) comprehensively reforms the governance of the Austrian school system. Its regional focus moves decisions closer to the regional environment of schools and students. Schools receive greater autonomy to cater to the needs of their students. The former system of school supervision, which was organised separately for each school type, adopts a regional focus: school quality managers are responsible for supporting schools in developing their quality based on a framework common to all school types. Additionally, the federal ministry seeks to establish a separate school evaluation body, a function previously exercised by school supervisors. The reform brings together administrative responsibilities of provinces (Länder) and the federal level in an education directorate in each province (BMBWF, 2019[1]).

The reform addresses the previously complex distribution of responsibilities between the federal and provincial level of governance, characterised by a fragmentation along federal and provincial schools, complexities in federal funding for teacher salaries of provincial schools, and limited autonomy of schools over staff and finances. Previous OECD analysis found these complexities to produce incentives for over- and misspending, make decision making more difficult through a lack of clarity, lead to mistrust among actors, and prevent greater integration to governing the school system (Nusche et al., 2016[2]).

An important aspect of the 2017 governance reform in Austria is to strengthen the use of evidence for decision making at all levels of governance. In an ongoing effort to strengthen the supply of data, the Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung, BMBWF) is developing a comprehensive monitoring system, which integrates several data sources to enable access for all responsible actors in the school system. Austria observed a seeming lack of capacity to use evidence and data systematically for decision making, including in quality assurance and in teaching and learning.

To strengthen the demand-side of evidence, Austria worked with the OECD’s strategic education governance team to apply its policy toolkit for promoting the systematic use of evidence by decision makers. An online survey was developed and administered among key decision makers in the federal ministry and education directorates, school quality managers and school leaders. The OECD analysis on the survey results takes stock of efforts promoting the systematic use of evidence in the Austrian education system and reflects on possible measures to strengthen them. The analysis draws on the Austrian context and current reform efforts, and is grounded in the OECD framework for strategic education governance.

Following this introduction, Section 2 introduces the OECD framework for strategic education governance, providing the background for the analysis. Section 3 discusses which efforts empirical research finds to strengthen the use of evidence in five areas: the skills to access and make sense of evidence, making evidence conveniently available, organisational processes encouraging the use of evidence, collaboration with evidence producers and collegial exchange, and building a common understanding of the importance of evidence, which evidence is useful and how it is best used. Section 4 discusses the Austrian context with a look to international comparison. Section 5 analyses the survey results, structured around policy making (BMBWF and education directorates), quality assurance (school quality managers, SQM) and schools (school leaders). The analysis of results focuses on strengths and weaknesses in the preconditions and efforts to use evidence systematically for decision making. The final section concludes and provides an outlook to possible next steps.


[1] BMBWF (2019), Steuerung des Schulsystems in Österreich: Weissbuch [Governance of the Education System in Austria: White Paper], Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung, Abt. III/3, http://www.bmbwf.gv.at.

[2] Nusche, D. et al. (2016), OECD Reviews of School Resources: Austria 2016, OECD Reviews of School Resources, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264256729-en.

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