Vienna, Austria Report of what it's like to live there - 09/08/20
Personal Experiences from Vienna, Austria
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
3. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
4. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
There are a few good school choices in Vienna. Along with the American International School, there is Vienna International School and Danube International School, among others. Danube International School looked great for younger grades, but it seemed too small to offer all our high-school child would need. It was a tough choice between AIS and VIS. Both are good.
Admissions & Welcome:
1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?
Our child was admitted in Grade 8 and everything was straightforward about the application process.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
The welcome was good, with orientation for new families. It would have been better if they had allowed some discussion of course registration before the first day of school, as we were told some of the electives were full. We later learned that they let other kids whose parents were more persistent into electives we were told were closed.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
There is a weekly e-mail newsletter from the administration and also one from the Parent-teacher group. Because our child is older, we had little communication directly with the teachers, as they communicate directly with students. We found that the activities/events office was good about arranging for competition travel.
2. Aside from school fees, are there required expenses such as uniforms, laptops/tablets, musical instruments, or field trips that parents are expected to cover? What are the approximate costs?
There are some costs for local field trips that parents must cover. Travel for sports and academic clubs and competitions is also covered by parents.
Academics & Resources:
1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?
There is a Middle School Counselor who checks in with kids. At the High School level, if your kid doesn't want/need anything out of the ordinary, the counseling is ok. If your kid requires more advanced learning, it's more difficult. The High School requires all students to take an introductory science course. If your child intends to enter university in a science, medicine, or engineering field that requires work in biology, chemistry and physics, it will be impossible to do unless they forego taking the full IB diploma. Because the introductory science course is required both in Grade 9 and Grade 10, even filling all elective slots with science would not make it possible to take the full IB Diploma program and still take all three sciences.
2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
The school has a good library. Students are allowed to borrow books to read at home.
3. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?
Students are issued a computer in Middle School and in High School.
4. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
Sometimes kids need programs that are blocked or that they cannot install on their own and they can work with the IT department. With online classes during the pandemic, most teachers continued with classes online. Some didn't meet during every class meeting time, but work continued.
5. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
There are two gyms, a theater and art rooms that Middle and High Schools share. There is no pool, but there is a swim team and they use facilities at a number of pools in Vienna.
6. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
In most classes, 15-18 kids per class.
7. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?
Both AP and IB classes are available. You can do the IB Diploma, but don't have to. It would be hard to do the full IB if you want to attend University in science, medicine, engineering, because the only science offered in Grades 9 and 10 is an introductory course. To fill the university requirement to have all the sciences, you would either need to take all sciences as electives and a class outside of the regular school day or not take the full IB Diploma.
8. Are students generally challenged appropriately by the curriculum? Please describe any particular strengths or weaknesses in this area. Do you have any thoughts how the curriculum is applied and implemented at this school?
The science curriculum is not good. The introductory science course is almost like remedial science coming from Northern Virginia, and they have now made it a two-year requirement. Math is better, because you can take high school math in middle school, and then take AP before going on to IB.
9. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
The amount of homework was ok - as we have been used to at other posts.
10. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
There is drama, choir, orchestra and instruction in various instruments. There are nice art rooms for middle and high school.
11. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
All of the teachers are fluent in English. Most are native speakers except some who teach German, Spanish, or other languages, or music.
12. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
It was a bit difficult to get the counselor to adjust requirements for an advanced child. We had to get special permission for our child to take an advanced course as an elective. The choices for gifted kids are limited. There is no advanced course for English or Sciences. In math, you can move to the next grade. When requesting anything a bit different, we were told what kids "generally" do. We did request a change in counselors and it was a bit better, but by then it was our last year.
13. What services are available for students with learning disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
Not sure. My understanding is that it's a good school for the average kid. Anything different - gifted or disabilities - a bit difficult.
14. What services are available for students with physical disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
This school has a lot of stairs and it would be hard to negotiate if you had mobility issues.
15. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?
The sports programs are great. They try to include everyone by having "A," "B," "C" teams or as many letters as it takes to accommodate all the kids that want soccer or basketball. Other teams are inclusive too. They have swimming, volleyball, track, and more. Their website is pretty detailed about what they have. There are other competitive teams too: Knowledge Bowl, Model UN, Robotics, and more. These are managed well.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. What is the climate for LGBT+ kids at this school? Are there resources they can draw upon? Does there appear to be any exclusionary behavior?
The school is small and counselors are aware of any bullying. There aren't specific resources for LGBT+ kids, but there didn't seem to be bullying or exclusion specifically around that.
2. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Expatriate students do socialize with local students. There are several very wealthy families and their kids tend to stick together in a clique.
3. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.
There have been some issues with a wealthier clique of kids acting entitled and/or excluding some kids, but not in all grades. We did not experience this directly.
1. What letter grade (ranging from A, excellent, to F, fail) would you assign to this school based on your overall experience? Would you choose it again?
Overall: B-. There are some excellent teachers and our overall experience was good. If we had to do it again, I would check out the science situation at VIS, because it would be very difficult to take a full IB Diploma and also enough science classes to get into a good engineering school in the US. If VIS does not have the introductory science requirement, we would probably go there.
2. Please describe some of your child's/children's highlights and challenges during their time at this school.
The Math program was good. Our child enjoyed Speech and Debate and Model UN. Also, the Art program was very good.
3. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!
Think about college requirements early as AIS does not make exceptions to their science requirement and it is a liability for kids looking at engineering or sciences for college. They are not very flexible on course selection, so choose your battles and come prepared.