„Diver­si­ty is every­where and chal­lenges us. We need to use the resources from var­i­ous fields and built strength,”  said ACADEMIA SUPERIOR Pres­i­dent und Deputy Gov­er­nor Michael Strugl at this year’s fire­side chat in the Tyro­lian moun­tain vil­lage Alpbach.

The expert dis­cus­sion took place for the sixth time in coop­er­a­tion with the stu­dent net­work Club Alp­bach Upper Austria.

The edu­ca­tion researcher and cul­tur­al and social anthro­pol­o­gist Bar­bara Her­zog-Pun­zen­berg­er, indus­tri­al­ist and Chair­man of the Coun­cil for Research and Tech­nol­o­gy Develp­ment Hanns Androsch and human geneti­cist and Aca­d­e­m­ic Direc­tor of ACADEMIA SUPERIOR Markus Hengstschläger dis­cussed the fol­low­ing social­ly rel­e­vant ques­tions with the stu­dents: How much diver­si­ty can the Aus­tri­an edu­ca­tion­al land­scape endure? What ist the role of the edu­ca­tion sys­tem and what does it have to do to be able to gen­er­ate fair oppor­tu­ni­ties for all?

Diversity shapes us in every respect

Diver­si­ty is also a cen­tral char­ac­ter­is­tic of Club Alp­bach OÖ. „In its activ­i­ties, the club is com­mit­ted to pro­mot­ing and using diver­si­ty with­in soci­ety — in terms of both the choice of schol­ar­ship hold­ers and our the­mat­ic pri­or­i­ties,” empha­sizes Katha­ri­na Fer­nan­dez-Met­zbauer, Pres­i­dent of the Club Alp­bach OÖ in her wel­come address. In some coun­tries, diver­si­ty is the basis for both soci­ety and the edu­ca­tion sys­tem, says LH-Stv. Michael Strugl: „Aus­tria also has to go in this direction”.

„Evo­lu­tion would not have hap­pened with­out diversity.“
– Hannes Androsch

Entre­pre­neur Hannes Androsch sees the diver­si­ty of soci­ety as an essen­tial pil­lar of cre­ativ­i­ty and warns against the clear­ly notice­able ten­den­cies of iso­la­tion­ism. „For me, diver­si­ty is a so-called evo­lu­tion­ary cre­ative need, which is becom­ing increas­ing­ly impor­tant,” says Androsch.

Most of our goods and prod­ucts are only there due to cul­tur­al exchange and migra­tion.“
– Bar­bara Herzog-Punzenberger

Edu­ca­tion­al researcher Her­zog-Pun­zen­berg­er adds: „Many of our cul­tur­al assets, such as Chris­tian­i­ty, math­e­mat­ics or the pota­to, can be traced back to a live­ly migra­tion culture”.

Biodiversity — our most important resource?

In the 21st cen­tu­ry, the soci­eties of Europe are marked by the trend towards more diver­si­ty: cul­tur­al, lin­guis­tic, social and eco­nom­ic dif­fer­ences in the pop­u­la­tion are now being re-empha­sized. Human geneti­cist Markus Hengstschläger is con­vinced: „Every human being is dif­fer­ent. This diver­si­ty must be seen and used as a strength. The edu­ca­tion sys­tem must also use diver­si­ty as an oppor­tu­ni­ty”. Hengstschläger pleads for pro­mot­ing the indi­vid­u­al­i­ty of every per­son at school.

There is not only inequal­i­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ty in edu­ca­tion, but also in find­ing tal­ent.
– Markus Hengstschläger

Androsch adds: „Instead of hav­ing pro­gressed, we fell behind. We have some catch­ing up to do in the area of ​​edu­ca­tion.” The entre­pre­neur, who ini­ti­at­ed the „Volks­begehren Bil­dungsini­tia­tive” in 2011, sees the basic step in the intro­duc­tion of the all-day school.

Diversity for more equality

The results of the PISA tests show that migra­tion is not causal­ly a prob­lem, accord­ing to Her­zog-Pun­zen­berg­er. „The deci­sive fac­tor for dif­fer­ences in the per­for­mance of stu­dents is the edu­ca­tion­al pro­file of their par­ents,” con­firms their much-noticed study „Migra­tion and Mul­ti­lin­gual­ism” on migra­tion and edu­ca­tion, refut­ing the mis­con­cep­tion that migra­tion or mul­ti­lin­gual­ism are the caus­es of prob­lems in the school with chil­dren. In order to deal pos­i­tive­ly with diver­si­ty and diver­si­ty in the edu­ca­tion sys­tem, Her­zog-Pun­zen­berg­er advo­cates teacher train­ing in deal­ing with mul­ti­lin­gual­ism for lan­guage-sen­si­tive sub­ject teach­ing as well as for the active involve­ment of par­ents in the diver­si­ty process.

Human geneti­cist Hengstschläger also advis­es „our edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem must make it its mis­sion to pro­mote poten­tial in chil­dren at an ear­ly age, for exam­ple through tal­ent scouts. Every child should have a right to the school’s abil­i­ty to find and sup­port their tal­ent, as diver­si­ty and the exploita­tion of indi­vid­ual poten­tial are the key to being at the fore­front of innovation.”


„Who does not start walk­ing stands still. Europe is stand­ing still. Asia, on the oth­er hand, starts walk­ing and is on the rise in inven­tions. Kinder­gar­dens, schools and uni­ver­si­ties need cuor­age and have to moti­vate young peo­ple to get start­ed because only then can you dis­cov­er the unexpected.“
– Markus Hengstschläger

A live­ly dis­cus­sion between the experts and the stu­dents raised ques­tions of prac­ti­cal imple­men­ta­tion. That edu­ca­tion does not only take place in school is a less com­mon view in Aus­tria com­pared to Ger­many or the USA, for exam­ple. The intro­duc­tion of com­pul­so­ry edu­ca­tion instead of com­pul­so­ry edu­ca­tion could poten­tial­ly increase equity.