Austria is committed to optimising education in its complex federal system, moving decisions closer to the students to strengthen every student’s opportunity to succeed. It has undertaken great efforts in reforming its governance system and simplifying complex arrangements of responsibilities and activities. With the Education Reform Act 2017 (Bildungsreformgesetz 2017), it has started to reform comprehensively the governance of its school system. The reform brings together administrative responsibilities of provinces (Länder) and the federal level in education directorates in each of the nine provinces. School supervision adopts a regional focus over the previously functional separation between school types, and schools receive greater autonomy to cater to the needs of their students. Austria seeks to strengthen the capacity of decision makers at all levels of governance to carry out their new responsibilities.

The Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) is conscious of the importance of effective knowledge governance for the cooperation across multiple levels of governance and diverse decision makers. To this end, it seeks to strengthen the capacity of decision makers at all levels of the education system to use evidence effectively for their respective practice – including teaching and quality assurance. To address this challenge in a targeted way, the BMBWF seeks to identify what it takes to promote the systematic use of evidence and assess the respective strengths and weaknesses in current processes and opportunities available to decision makers. These efforts are accompanied by the development of a comprehensive education monitoring system to strengthen the supply of information.

OECD work on strategic education governance supports countries in identifying the best ways to achieve national objectives for education systems in a context of multi-level governance structures and complex environments. It identifies and promotes effective governance processes in the domains of accountability, capacity, knowledge governance, stakeholder involvement, strategic thinking and a whole-of-system perspective. Central to this work is an applied policy toolkit. Informed by empirical research, the toolkit’s generalised questionnaires in individual domains of strategic governance help policy makers bring effective governance processes onto the political agenda. The questionnaires are adapted to individual contexts and priorities, providing countries with a set of aspirational efforts for self-reflection. They offer a common language to enable sharing of local practices and promote dialogue among stakeholders.

Part of the work on knowledge governance, the aim of this report is to take stock of processes that research finds to promote the systematic use of evidence in decision making. Carried out as an online survey to decision makers in the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Research, education directorates, school supervision and school leaders, it is meant to gauge areas for further investigation and informing thinking about possible next practices. It is designed as a conversation starter rather than a definitive evaluation of practices. Following the spirit of a self-reflective exercise, the report informs discussions at a workshop with stakeholders of all levels of governance in the Austrian education system.

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