ISCED 2011 Operational Manual

Guidelines for Classifying National Education Programmes and Related Qualifications

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The structure of education systems varies widely between countries. In order to produce internationally comparable education statistics and indicators, it is necessary to have a framework to collect and report data on education programmes with a similar level of educational content. UNESCO’s International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) is the reference classification for organising education programmes and related qualifications by education levels and fields. The basic concepts and definitions of ISCED are intended to be internationally valid and comprehensive of the full range of education systems.

ISCED 2011 is the second major revision of this classification (initially developed in the 1970s and first revised in 1997). It was adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in November 2011. Prepared jointly by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), the OECD and Eurostat, this operational manual provides guidelines and explanatory notes for the interpretation of the revised classification, by each education level. It also includes country examples of programmes and qualifications that have been classified to ISCED 2011.

This manual will be useful for national statisticians collecting and reporting data on education to international organisations, as well as for policymakers and researchers interested in better understanding of these data.

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ISCED 2011 Level 1: Primary education

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation

Primary education usually begins at age 5, 6 or 7, and has a typical duration of six years. Programmes at ISCED level 1 are normally designed to give pupils a sound basic education in reading, writing and mathematics, along with an elementary understanding of other subjects such as history, geography, natural science, social sciences, art and music. The commencement of reading activities alone is not a sufficient criterion for classification of an education programme at ISCED level 1. Programmes classified at ISCED level 1 may be referred to in many ways, for example: primary education, elementary education or basic education (stage 1 or lower grades if an education system has one programme that spans ISCED levels 1 and 2). For international comparability purposes, the term ‘primary education’ is used to label ISCED level 1.

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