Volksschule: visitation by the parish priest to the village school after the Maria-Theresian school reform. engraved title page print from a copperplate from a manuscript on the role of clergy in the school system, 1782.
Volksschule, term sporadically used from the late 18th century onwards and officially introduced in 1840 by the 8th revision of the School Administration Act of 1805 ("deutsche Volksschulen") to replace the former name "Primarschule" (primary school). Preceded by various other schools providing elementary instruction in the mother tongue, such as Deutsche Schule ("German School"), Pfarrschule (parish school), and Trivialschule ("trivium school"). The 1869 Reichsvolksschulgesetz outlines the responsibility of the Volksschule as follows: "to provide moral and religious education for children, develop their mental activity, equip them with the knowledge and abilities they will need during further education and training to prepare them for (work) life, and build a basis for the development of able men and women and members of the community". Since the number of pupils determined that of teachers and classes (one teacher for 80 pupils), many rural Volksschule primary schools had no more than one to three grades well beyond the middle of the 20th century. These schools were only closed in the course of a reform following the School Legislation of 1962. Today, Volksschule primary schools normally cover the first four years ("Grundschule"), and in very few cases they also run "Oberstufe" classes (years 5-8) following a curriculum similar to that of "Hauptschule" secondary schools (154 pupils attended "Oberstufe" classes in 1992/93). The compulsory subjects of reading, writing, German, "Sachunterricht" (Austrian studies and "nature" studies), mathematics, music, art and handicrafts, and physical education are supplemented by other obligatory exercises and subjects, such as road safety training and a modern foreign language. The traditional system of one class teachers for all subjects was gradually abandoned in the Second Republic in favour of a system with specialised teachers for religious instruction, crafts and the foreign language course.