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‘Better and cheaper’: What foreigners really think about childcare in Austria

We asked readers of The Local to share their experiences of childcare in Austria. While the majority approve of the service, there is also room for improvement.

'Better and cheaper': What foreigners really think about childcare in Austria
Readers of The Local said childcare in Austria is mostly "good", but there is some room for improvement. (Photo by Kelli McClintock / Unsplash)

Austria is well-known for having affordable childcare – especially when compared with other countries like the US and the UK.

But is it really all it’s hyped up to be? 

We asked readers of The Local to find out, and this is what they said.

FOR MEMBERS: How does the cost of childcare in Austria compare to other countries?

‘Much better and cheaper than the US’

The majority of readers surveyed (50 percent) described childcare in Austria as “good”. This was followed by “very good” at 25 percent.

However, most of the people that say the service in Austria is good or very good come from countries where it’s expensive back home, or difficult to access.

For example, one respondent in Vienna who asked to remain anonymous said childcare in Austria is “much better and cheaper than the US”.

Similarly, Marie in Klosterneuburg, but from the US, described it as “amazing”.

Fabiana Thome from Brazil said: “I didn’t have a child back in my home country, but I have the impression that in Austria childcare is better and more affordable.”

Manuela Schnetzinger, also from from Brazil, said: “In Brazil you need to spend a ton of money. Here, I think it is good.”

READ MORE: Living in Austria: Is Vienna a family-friendly city?

And Shyam from India described childcare in Austria as “very good”, before adding: “My country doesn’t have any support for childcare.”

By comparison, 20 percent of respondents said childcare in Austria was “good, but could do better”. And five percent described it as “terrible”.

A British person in Vienna said: “The children in Austria don’t do any activities to prepare them for school. In the UK, most children can hold a pencil at 4 years old! Also kindergartens don’t work on their social skills – so many issues later in school.”

Likewise, another respondent in Vienna said: “I come from the US, where childcare for young kids is more normalised and professionalised.”

‘Grandparents as caretakers’

When asked how childcare in Austria could be improved, several respondents said services should be expanded to allow more parents to return to work. 

This was of particular importance for those located outside of Vienna (where government subsidised childcare is available for all children up to the age of six).

Manuela Schnetzinger in Wels, Upper Austria, said the childcare offer could be improved by “taking children under one year old.”

A respondent in Mödling, Lower Austria, said: “More places, longer hours from a younger age.”

And another respondent in Vienna said: “More availability of public facilities for younger kids to facilitate women working.”

READ NEXT: Where to find English-language books in Austria

Others also remarked on cultural differences in Austria about when women return to work on a full-time basis, and the expectation that grandparents will become childcare providers.

Klosterneuburg-based Marie from the US said: “It would be great if mothers would go back to work after a year. Honestly, watching kids get picked up at 3pm for the first 6 years is painful for those of us who return back to work.”

Valéria Queiroz from Brazil commented: “Many families have huge difficulties in finding a place for their children. It is still a country that lays a lot on grandparents as caretakers for parents to be able to work, and this is simply not an option for many families who live here.”

Whereas Ricardo from Portugal, who lives in Styria, said childcare could be improved by: “Preparing the kids for school. Compared to the UK, the Austrian childcare system is years behind.”

For others, like Robert Nyström from Sweden, language was an issue that could be improved.

Robert, who is based in Vienna, said: “Better explanation about the system in English. It is very hard to find good information that explains how everything works.”

But Rob Barratt from the UK simply said: “Pay childcare providers more salary.”

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SCHOOLS

‘Explore all options’: How can parents in Austria choose the right school?

Many foreign parents in Austria are divided between choosing state or international schools. We asked some to share their advice.

'Explore all options': How can parents in Austria choose the right school?

International schools have the advantage of being standardised worldwide, ensuring that a child who will only spend a few years in that country will receive an education that will allow them to continue studying elsewhere later. 

But they can also be expensive and limit the child’s contact with their new home. So the decision is definitely challenging.

For most parents, deciding whether to put their children in a public or private international school comes down to many factors. Among them are the cost, parents’ personal preference, and the school’s location, for example.

A very important thing to consider that may help parents decide is how long they plan to stay in Austria.  

In a recent The Local survey, parents who knew they’d be moving away in a couple of years opted for the standardised and high-quality teaching of international schools – even if they weren’t 100 percent satisfied with it. 

It was the best choice for Olivera Mocilovic, who is from Canada, as her 15-year-old son would’ve struggled to attend a regular school and pass the Matura (the end of high school exam) without German knowledge.

READ ALSO: What is Austria’s Matura exam and why do some want it abolished?

Her experience made her advise parents to make sure that their kids start learning German as soon as they plan to move to Austria.

If you intend to live permanently in Austria, many parents choose the Austrian public system. Jim Aladin, from Sweden, advises parents with long-term plans to stay in Austria to not go to international schools. Not only so they can integrate into their new country but for social reasons too.

“In international schools, if your children make friends, they might move out of the country after a few years”, he noted. 

‘Do a lot of research’

For Claudia, who initially put her kids in one of these schools because of language, the advice is: “Do a lot of research and don’t believe the brochures”.  Kelly Langford also recommended people speak with other parents before making their final choice.

READ ALSO: The verdict: Is it worth enrolling your kids in one of Vienna’s international schools?

Learn about what they are taught and how, and get to know the teachers, classrooms and other kids and parents. If having classes in English is a significant concern, besides the international schools, there are also several public schools in Vienna with a bilingual programme. 

“If you have a longer visibility of staying like a window of 4-5 years and if your kids are younger that means in primary school, you should explore bilingual schools option in Austria”, said Suvie Kaul, from India. 

For Janet Gruber, the bigger picture is more important: “I would always look at how the students learn and if it is relevant and up to date for their world”, she said.

Alexandra Cosentino, from the US, also had a more general tip for parents still in doubt: “Check all the schools carefully. Maintain and become involved in a relationship with your school”, she said.

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