Secondary Departments


The Vienna International School prides itself on a very strong and successful arts programme. From music to visual and performing arts, the students have the ability to immerse themselves in the genre that best suits their talent. With highly qualified and dedicated artists and musicians as teachers, the students are able to develop and hone their skills, which allows them express themselves as confident and competent artists.

The music programme is essentially practical and creative. Students in all grades are encouraged to develop their own individual skills and interests in music as well as expand their broad base of expertise and musical knowledge. The curriculum focusses on performaning, composing and listening skills.

The Visual Arts Department was established in 1978. It now has a complete program, starting in Primary and progressing through to IB Visual Arts in the Secondary school. Art students develop the following understandings in the four strands of visual art:

* Creative processes
* Elements and principles of art and design
* Reflection and appreciation
* Visual art in society

Drama is recognized as a subject that benefits the learning and development of children. There are three main strands to the effective use of drama: a means to build children’s confidence and develop their social skills; a teaching approach for exploring cross-curricular subjects and issues, and an aid in developing children’s performance and self-presentation skills. These strands often overlap or interact.

Arts Department Leaders: Kim Morris (Visual Arts/Film) and Elisabeth Bottoms (Music/Performing Arts)


“The MYP Design curriculum challenges all students to apply practical and creative thinking skills to solve design problems; encourages students to explore the role of design in both historical and contemporary contexts; and raises students’ awareness of their responsibilities when making design decisions and taking action.” (International Baccalaureate Organization 2014)

Purpose-built facilities at VIS include three digital design laboratories, two product design studios and a fully equipped food design kitchen. Mandatory study in G6-G8 allows students to follow the design cycle to solve open-ended briefs in product design, digital design and food design contexts. These programs assist students to develop skills in the areas of investigating problems, designing creative solutions, planning, creating and evaluating.

In G9-G10 students elect to study increasingly specialized courses investigating fields as diverse as mobile apps, architectural and sustainable design. Courses in G9-G10 are structured to help them make informed choices when selecting subjects at IB Diploma level.

In G11-G12, Computer Science, Design Technology, and Information Technology in a Global Society courses are offered at both standard and high levels.

Interim Department Leader: Peter Murphy


As a social science, economics uses scientific methodologies that include quantitative and qualitative elements. The IB Diploma Programme economics course emphasizes the economic theories of microeconomics, which deal with economic variables affecting individuals, firms and markets, and the economic theories of macroeconomics, which deal with economic variables affecting countries, governments and societies. These economic theories are not to be studied in a vacuum—rather, they are to be applied to real-world issues. Prominent among these issues are fluctuations in economic activity, international trade, economic development and environmental sustainability.

The ethical dimensions involved in the application of economic theories and policies permeate throughout the economics course as students are required to consider and reflect on human end-goals and values. The economics course encourages students to develop international perspectives, fosters a concern for global issues, and raises students’ awareness of their own responsibilities at a local, national and international level.

Taking IB Economics provides students with the tools to:
• Understand how national economies operate
• Appreciate the interdependence of national economies in the global economy
• Read newspapers and listen to news in an informed manner
• Develop their analytical and critical-thinking skills
• Enhance their awareness of international issues

Who should study Economics?
• Anyone who is interested in domestic and international current events
• Anyone interested in pursuing a career in business, law, journalism, international affairs, finance, diplomacy, government, education, environmental science or administration of any kind
• Anyone who is interested in being a better-informed ‘global citizen’

Department Leader: Britta Hoernchen


The English curriculum is an exciting and entertaining experience for young people with an aim to expose students to a range of language and literature and to engender a love of writing and highly developed writing skills. In keeping with the IB Middle Years Programme, students experience thematic units based on open-ended questions in which they encounter texts from around the world both ancient and modern. Assessment is continuous and balanced, incorporating tasks written and oral, analytical and creative, formative and summative; all designed to prepare students for success in the IB Diploma Programme.

At the IB level, students may elect to take English Literature or Language and Literature at either the standard or the higher level. The English A courses are designed for students whose best language, whether native or acquired, is English. For the Literature course, 13 texts gleaned from a survey of World Literature are studied over the two-year course at higher level; for standard level, 11 texts are required. In the Language and Literature course, both literary and non-literary topics and texts are studied. Students examine the history and scope of the English Language and its continuous evolution. In both courses, students are assessed through a variety of tasks: an oral presentation where the students choose the topic, an oral commentary under exam conditions, written assignments chosen by the student and submitted for external assessment, and two written examinations at the end the two-year programme.

Department Leader: Kathleen Waller


Geography is part of the IB Middle Years Programme for G6-G10. It is a required course and students take geography in either the first or the second semester, alternating with History.

G6: the students begin the semester learning about mountain environments and use Austria as a case study. In the second half of the semester, the students learn about river environments and our example is the Danube river basin. In both cases, physical processes and human interaction with the environment are studied.

G7: the main theme of study is extreme environments. These consist of tundra and polar regions, the humid tropic and hot arid areas. In each case the relationship between people and environments is central to the study.

G8: there are two main themes contained in the course. These are natural hazards and global issues. The first half of the semester course covers tectonic and climatic hazards. The second half of the semester examines a range of environmental and developmental issues including: climate change; deforestation; pollution; development disparities and sustainable development.

G9: there are four main themes contained in the course. These are weather and climate, population studies, transport and tourism. In the weather and population units, the core skills of data handling and analysis are learned. While within the transport and tourism units, a range of human geographical issues to do with planning and problem solving are examined.

G10: the first semester involves urban studies and involves a fieldwork project based on Vienna. In the second half of the semester, students are required to produce a research paper based on energy issues. The concluding units of study incorporate short course studies including: the lithosphere, hydrology and coasts, in preparation for the IBDP.

At the IB level, students may elect to take geography at either the standard or higher level. By the end of the course G12 higher and standard level will have covered the core themes of: population in transition; patterns in resource consumption; disparities in development; and environmental sustainability.

Humanities Department Leader: Britta Hoernchen


As the language of the host country, German is taught to all secondary students at VIS. We offer courses at all achievement levels in each grade. Our thirteen teachers are all native speakers who teach with enthusiasm and passion. Excursions and field trips add to the authentic approach of the teaching and expand the cultural experience of learning German.

G6-G10 follow the Middle Years Programme of the International Baccalaureate. Building on prior knowledge, the students are challenged and supported to develop their German listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. In G9-G10 teaching also aims to prepare students for the Diploma Programme.

G11-G12 follow the curriculum of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. We offer German Ab Initio for beginners and German B standard and higher level for advanced learners. Our mother tongue students have the options of studying German Literature or German Language and Literature at standard or higher level.

Department Leader: Noemi Linnau


The emphasis of History is on building analytical skills, essay writing and knowledge and understanding of the past. The course of study in History is done thematically which enable the students not only to build their historical skills but also to make links to the present and other areas of knowledge. History at the IB diploma level is a popular choice at the school and focuses on Modern European History.

G6 - Ancient Civilizations
Students study the conditions leading to the rise of civilizations and examine the criteria by which a civilization could be judged as ‘great’. Students use a variety of sources and practice the selection, use, explanation and presentation of historical information in oral and written formats. Students look in depth at Ancient Greece and the emergence of democracy in Athens as well as Ancient Rome and the Romans in Austria.

G7 - Islamic Civilization and the West
Students focus on Islamic civilization and Western Europe. Students study the cultural contributions of Islamic civilization. The causes, events, and effects of the Crusades and the Black Death are also examined. Finally, the Siege of Vienna of 1683 is studied which includes a field trip into the first district.

G8 - Equal Rights Movements
Students briefly look at colonization as an introduction to the units of study and then examine equal rights movements with an in-depth study of Gandhi and the Independence of India, focusing particularly on his methods of protest. Apartheid in South Africa is examined and the Civil Rights Movement in the USA makes up the final unit of study.

G9 - Revolution
Students study the political, economic and social causes and effects of revolution in society. Firstly, the Austrian Enlightenment is briefly examined as an introduction to changes in political and economic thought in Europe. The French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution and the Russian Revolution make up the units of study that are examined in-depth.

G10 - 20th Century Turmoil
Students focus on 20th century topics in G10 and look at political and economic turmoil in the industrialized world with the USA as a superpower. The Great Depression and the New Deal focuses on economic history and is linked to the recent financial crises. Effects of war on civilians are studied with particular attention to the Holocaust and Hiroshima during World War II. Finally, the Vietnam War is examined in-depth and is linked with recent military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

IB Diploma History - Modern European History
Although topics may vary slightly the Diploma course focuses on Modern Europe. Emphasis is on essay writing and document skills. Topics at higher level include Russia in the second half of the 19th century and the causes of the Russian Revolutions, the causes and outcome of WWI and Germany between the wars. Topics at both higher level and standard level include peacekeeping between the World Wars, the causes of the Second World War, single party rulers including Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Mussolini and the origins and development of the Cold War.

Humanities Department Leader: Britta Hoernchen


tudents are taught mathematics with an emphasis on discovering and applying knowledge and skills in real life contexts. In addition to textbooks, they learn using a wide variety of resources, including departmental sites subscriptions, manipulable materials and ICT tools.

In G6-G10, our courses were designed to address all the topics included in the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme framework: Number, Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry, Statistics and Probability, and Discrete mathematics.

In G6-G8, students follow the same common course that leads naturally to the standard mathematics course in G9-G10. For those students who have demonstrated higher capability and results they have the opportunity to join the extended mathematics course in G9-G10. This course contains additional content and the standard level topics are explored at an higher level of sophistication and abstraction.

Students in G11-G12 study one of the following courses from the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme: Mathematical Studies at standard level, Mathematics at either standard or higher level. There is also the opportunity for students to undertake the Further Mathematics course at higher level.

Department Leader: John Acford

Physical Education

The Physical Education curriculum offers a wide range of activities for G6-G10 following the guidelines of the IBMYP. Please see the student life section of our website for more athletics information.

We have a sports hall accommodating three separate large gymnasiums, outdoor facilities include; an astroturf area, a hard tartan surfaced court, a sports field, a running track and a multipurpose grass field.

Through our holistic approach, i.e. educating the student socially, emotionally, mentally and physically, the main goal of the Physical Education department is to educate our students to aspire to lead a lifelong healthy and active lifestyle.

Department Leader: Chris Wegkamp


Psychology is offered as an IB course as a two-year programme at both standard and higher levels. (There is no prior knowledge requirement and psychology is not offered at VIS prior to the IB diploma/certificate level courses).

Students in standard level study the “core” of biological, cognitive, and sociocultural psychology as well as one optional topic (form five prescribed by the IBO) and conduct a simple experimental study that involves replicating published research.

At higher level, students complete the same core requirements and study two of the five options, complete a simple experimental study that also involves inferential statistics, and study qualitative research as an additional topic.

Humanities Department Leader: Britta Hoernchen

Romance Languages

The Romance Language Department teaches French and Spanish. Our courses cater for students starting with these languages as a beginner in G6. Through scaffolding speaking, reading, writing and listening skills, we aim to construct learning around relevant and authentic situations.

From G6-G10, we work under the MYP framework, which emphasizes visual interpretation. In G11-G12, we follow the curriculum of the DP program, based around global issues, such as the environment, communications and personal relationships in a global context.

G11 language students go to either Madrid or Paris for a week in April, organized by the school to experience their learning in real life context and to expand their cultural understanding of the language.

Department Leader: Victoria Rodriguez


Science is taught with a high level of hands-on practical work aimed at making the subjects both relevant and exciting. We have seven well-equipped laboratories that are fully able to manage the demands of practical science work. In addition, the school grounds include an Ecolab and a small pond for ecological studies. The Science Department also makes good use of the surrounding environment and local excursions and residential field trips to enhance the classroom experiences for students in many classes.

Science in G6-G10 is framed within the IB MYP programme. In G7-G8 students follow a combined science course that focuses on the development of scientific ideas and practical skills, building on the achievements of the school’s primary curriculum.

The programme for G9-G10 places a greater emphasis on the development of key scientific concepts, aligned to those found in the IB Diploma Programme. All students study separate Physics, Chemistry and Biology throughout these two years. This format allows them to make the most informed choice about their selection of Science subjects at IB Diploma level.

G11-G12 follow one, or optionally two, courses within International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. Currently these are Physics, Chemistry or Biology at either standard or higher level or Environmental Systems and Societies at standard level.

Department Leader: Magdalena Tsavkova