Education at a Glance 2015
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Education at a Glance 2015

OECD Indicators

Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators is the authoritative source for accurate information on the state of education around the world. It provides data on the output of educational institutions; the impact of learning across countries; the financial and human resources invested in education; access, participation and progression in education; and the learning environment and organisation of schools.

The 2015 edition introduces more detailed analysis of participation in early childhood and tertiary levels of education. The report also examines first generation tertiary-educated adults’ educational and social mobility, labour market outcomes for recent graduates, and participation in employer-sponsored formal and/or non-formal education. Readiness to use information and communication technology for problem solving in teaching and learning is also examined. The publication provides indicators on the impact of skills on employment and earnings, gender differences in education and employment, and teacher and school leader appraisal systems. For the first time, this edition includes highlights of each indicator inside the book. The report covers all 34 OECD countries and a number of partner countries (Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, and for the first time, Costa Rica and Lithuania).

The Excel™ spreadsheets used to create the tables and charts in Education at a Glance are available via the StatLinks provided throughout the publication.

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Indicator D1 How Much Time do Students Spend in the Classroom? You do not have access to this content

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Indicator D1 shows the amount of instruction time students are expected to receive in compulsory general education: minimum intended instruction time, as well as the allocation of instruction time to the different curriculum areas.

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Chapter Highlights

  • Students in OECD countries receive an average of 7 570 hours of compulsory instruction during their primary and lower secondary education.

  • On average across OECD countries, instruction in reading, writing and literature, mathematics, and the arts represents 46% of compulsory instruction time for primary school students; instruction in reading, writing and literature, second and other languages, and mathematics represents 38% of compulsory instruction time for lower secondary school students.

Chart D1.1. Compulsory instruction time in general education (2015)
In primary and lower secondary education

1. Estimated number of hours by level of education based on the average number of hours per year, as the allocation of instruction time across multiple grades is flexible.

2. Year of reference 2014.

3. Excludes the last year of compulsory education, which can be classified at either the lower secondary or the upper secondary level.

4. Actual instruction time for lower secondary education.

5. The number of grades in lower secondary education is three or four, depending on the track. The 4th year of pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO) was excluded from the calculation.

6. Year of reference 2012.

Countries are ranked in ascending order of the total number of compulsory instruction hours.

Source: OECD. Table D1.1. See Annex 3 for notes (

ContextExpand / Collapse

Providing instruction in formal classroom settings accounts for a large portion of public investment in education. Countries make various choices concerning the overall amount of time devoted to instruction and which subjects are compulsory. These choices reflect national and/or regional priorities and preferences concerning what material students should be taught and at what age. Countries usually have statutory or regulatory requirements regarding hours of instruction. These are most often stipulated as the minimum number of hours of instruction a school must offer, and are based on the understanding that sufficient time is required for good learning outcomes. Matching resources with students’ needs and making optimal use of time are central to education policy. Teachers’ salaries, institutional maintenance and provision of other educational resources constitute the main costs of education. The length of time during which these resources are made available to students (as partly shown in this Indicator) is an important factor in determining how funds for education are allocated (see Indicator B7, which shows the factors influencing the salary cost of teachers per student).

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  • In OECD countries, compulsory instruction time for primary students averages 804 hours per year; lower secondary students receive an average of 112 more hours of compulsory education per year than primary students do.

  • The proportion of the compulsory curriculum for primary students that is devoted to reading, writing and literature ranges from 18% in Poland to 37% in France; for lower secondary students, it ranges from 12% in Australia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland and Japan to 33% in Italy.

  • The proportion of the compulsory curriculum devoted to mathematics at primary level ranges from 13% in Denmark and Greece to 27% in Portugal; at the lower secondary level it ranges from 11% in Greece to 20% in Italy.

  • In OECD countries, an average of 12% (for primary students) and 6% (for lower secondary students) of compulsory instruction time is devoted to compulsory subjects with a flexible timetable. An average of 5% of compulsory instruction time for both groups of students is devoted to compulsory flexible subjects chosen by schools.

  • In about one-third of countries with available data, the allocation of instruction time across grades is flexible, i.e. instruction time for a specific subject is defined for a certain number of grades, or even the whole of compulsory education, without specifying the time to be allocated to each grade.

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