Education at a Glance 2017
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Education at a Glance 2017

OECD Indicators

Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators is the authoritative source for information on the state of education around the world. With more than 125 charts and 145 tables included in the publication and much more data available on the educational database, Education at a Glance 2017 provides key information 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 2017 edition presents a new focus on fields of study, investigating both trends in enrolment at upper secondary and tertiary level, student mobility, and labour market outcomes of the qualifications obtained in these fields. The publication also introduces for the first time a full chapter dedicated to the Sustainable Development Goals, providing an assessment of where OECD and partner countries stand on their way to meeting the SDG targets. Finally, two new indicators are developed and analysed in the context of participation and progress in education: an indicator on the completion rate of upper secondary students and an indicator on admission processes to higher education.

The report covers all 35 OECD countries and a number of partner countries (Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa).

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.


Chapter Highlights

  • Students in OECD countries and economies receive an average of 7 538 hours of compulsory instruction during their primary and lower secondary education, ranging from 5 976 hours in Latvia to almost double that in Australia (11 000 hours) and Denmark (10 960 hours).

  • In OECD countries and economies, compulsory instruction time for primary students averages 800 hours per year, and lower secondary students receive an average of 113 more hours of compulsory education per year than primary students.

  • On average across OECD countries and economies, instruction in reading, writing and literature, mathematics, and the arts represents 51% of compulsory instruction time for primary school students, and instruction in reading, writing and literature, second and other languages, and mathematics represents 40% of compulsory instruction time for lower secondary school students.

Figure D1.1. Compulsory instruction time in general education (2017)
Primary and lower secondary education, in public institutions

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 2016.

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

4. Year of reference 2015.

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

Source: OECD (2017), Table D1.1. See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes (

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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. Almost all countries 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). There is growing awareness of the importance of time spent outside the classroom during the school day in activities other than instruction, including recesses and breaks. In addition to formal instruction time, students may participate in extracurricular activities before and/or after the school day or during school holidays, but these activities (as well as examination periods) are outside the scope of this indicator.

Other findingsExpand / Collapse

  • The proportion of the compulsory curriculum for primary students devoted to reading, writing and literature ranges from 18% in Poland to 39% in the Russian Federation; for lower secondary students, it ranges from 9% in Ireland to more than 25% in Greece (and in Italy, including social studies).

  • The proportion of the compulsory curriculum devoted to mathematics at the primary level ranges from 12% in Denmark to 27% in Mexico; at the lower secondary level it ranges from 11% in Hungary and Korea to 16% in Chile, Latvia and the Russian Federation (and 20% in Italy, including natural science).

  • Except for a few countries where compulsory curriculum is mostly devoted to flexible subjects, in OECD countries and economies, an average of 2% of compulsory instruction time for primary students and lower secondary students is devoted to subjects with a flexible timetable. An average of 5% of compulsory instruction time at the primary level and 6% at the lower secondary level is devoted to flexible subjects chosen by schools.

  • In 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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