The legal basis for primary and secondary education in Austria is the School Act of 1962.
The federal Ministry of Education is responsible for funding and supervising primary, secondary, and, since 2000, also tertiary education. Primary and secondary education is administered on the state level by the authorities of the respective states.
Federal legislation played a prominent role in the education system, and laws dealing with education effectively have a de facto constitutional status because, like Austrian constitutional law, they can only be passed or amended by a two-thirds majority in parliament.
Pupils in Austria are required to complete four years of elementary school (Volksschule). After this, gifted students have the option to visit higher learning institutions that prepare one for university, whereas the majority go on to vocational preparatory schools.
Some vocational/general schooling institutions end after a total of 8 years of schooling, whereas the higher institution "Gymnasium" finishes after a total of 12 years.
These students receive the "Matura", the university admissions certificate, after the final exams. Some pupils decide to attend trade schools after their general trading, which can also end with the "Matura", although these only offer admission into specific areas of study at tertiary level.
Private schools that provide primary and secondary education and some teacher training are run mainly, but by no means exclusively, by the Roman Catholic Church and account for approximately 10% of the 6,800 schools and 120,000 teachers.
Roman Catholic schools have a reputation for more discipline and rigor than public institutions, and some are considered elite institutions.
Because there is no tradition of private university education in Austria, the state has a virtual monopoly on higher education. This has been changing slowly in recent years as private universities become more commonplace.