Indicator D4. How much time do teachers and school heads spend teaching and working?

At the pre-primary, primary and secondary levels, countries vary considerably in their annual statutory teaching time – the number of teaching hours per year required of a full-time teacher in a public school. Variations in how teaching time is regulated and/or reported across countries may explain some of the differences in statutory teaching time between countries (Box D4.1). In some countries, teaching time also varies at the subnational level (Box D4.2).

Across countries and economies with available data, statutory teaching time in public schools varies more at the pre-primary level than at any other level. The number of teaching days per year ranges from 158 days in the Flemish Community of Belgium to 225 days in Germany and Norway. Annual teaching hours range from 519 hours in Mexico to 1 755 hours in Germany. On average across OECD countries and economies, teachers at this level of education are required to teach 993 hours per year, spread over 40 weeks or 194 days of teaching (Table D4.1 and Figure D4.2).

Primary school teachers are required to teach 778 hours per year in public institutions on average. In most countries with available data, daily teaching time ranges from three to six hours a day, with an OECD average of more than four hours per day. There is no set rule on how teaching time is distributed throughout the year. For example, primary school teachers in Mexico must teach 780 hours per year, over 62 hours more than in Turkey. However as teachers teach more days in Mexico than in Turkey (195 days compared to 180 days), teachers in both countries teach four hours a day on average (Table D4.1).

Lower secondary school teachers in general programmes in public institutions are required to teach an average of 712 hours per year. Teaching time is less than 600 hours in Finland, Korea, Poland, the Russian Federation and Turkey, and exceeds 1 000 hours in Costa Rica and Mexico. However, the reported hours for Finland and Korea refer to the minimum time teachers are required to teach (Box D4.1) and teachers in Poland can be obliged to teach as much as 25% of the statutory time as additional overtime, at the discretion of the school head.

A teacher in general upper secondary education in public institutions has an average teaching load of 680 hours per year. Teaching time ranges from fewer than 500 hours per year in Iceland, Poland and the Russian Federation to more than 1 000 hours in Costa Rica. Teachers in Finland, Iceland, Japan, Korea, Norway, Poland, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Turkey and the Russian Federation teach for three hours or less per day, on average, compared to six hours or more in Costa Rica (Table D4.1).

Teaching time tends to decrease as the level of education increases. In most countries, statutory teaching time at the pre-primary level is more than at the upper secondary level (general programmes). The exceptions are Chile and Scotland (United Kingdom), where teachers are required to teach same hours at all levels of education, and Australia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Lithuania and Mexico, where upper secondary school teachers are required to teach more hours than pre-primary school teachers (Table D4.1 and Figure D4.2).

The largest difference in teaching time requirements is between the pre-primary and primary levels of education. On average, pre-primary school teachers are required to spend about 28% more time in the classroom than primary school teachers. In the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia and Slovenia, pre-primary school teachers are required to teach at least twice the number of hours per year as primary school teachers (Table D4.1).

In Austria, France, Ireland, Korea, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Turkey, primary school teachers have at least 25% more annual teaching hours than lower secondary school teachers, while there is no difference in Chile, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Iceland, Scotland (United Kingdom) and Slovenia. The teaching load for primary school teachers is slightly lighter than for lower secondary school teachers in Costa Rica, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and much lighter in Mexico (Table D4.1).

Teaching time at lower and upper secondary levels is similar across most countries. However, in Iceland, Japan, Norway and Switzerland, annual required teaching time at the lower secondary level is at least 20% more than at the upper secondary level (Table D4.1).

In most countries, statutory teaching time does not vary much between general and vocational programmes. Focusing on upper secondary, the level for which most countries have both general and vocational programmes, teaching hours are similar in both programmes in nearly two-thirds of the 27 countries and economies with available information. However, teaching times are at least 12% higher in vocational programmes than in general programmes in the Flemish Community of Belgium, Finland, Lithuania, Norway and Switzerland, and 18% lower in vocational programmes in Mexico (Figure D4.1).

Within vocational programmes, the statutory teaching time may vary according to the type of subjects being taught, as some countries and economies set different teaching requirements (and working conditions, see Box D3.3) for teachers of vocational and general subjects. For example, in the Flemish Community of Belgium, teachers of vocational practice courses in upper secondary vocational programmes are required to teach up to 50% more hours per week compared to those teaching general subject courses and vocational theory courses.

While there has been little change in average teaching hours between 2000 and 2019, one in five countries with available data (and no break in the time series) reported change of 10% or more in teaching time in one or more educational levels over these 19 years (Table D4.6, available on line).

At the primary level, teaching time increased by at least 14% (more than 100 hours) between 2000 and 2019 in Israel and Japan. In Israel, this increase in teaching (and working) time is part of the “New Horizon” reform that has been gradually implemented since 2008. One of the key measures of this reform was to lengthen teachers’ working week to accommodate small-group teaching in exchange for more generous compensation. Teachers’ working time was increased from 30 to 36 hours per week and now includes 5 hours of small-group teaching in primary schools. To compensate, salaries have been raised substantially (see Indicator D3). Teaching time for lower secondary school teachers also increased in Israel, by nearly 20% (115 hours), and in Japan, albeit to a lesser extent (10% or 58 hours) during this period. At the upper secondary level, the largest increase in teaching time was also in Israel, where teachers had to teach nearly 19% more hours (99 additional hours) in 2019 than they did in 2000 (Table D4.6, available on line).

In contrast, net teaching time fell between 2000 and 2019 in some countries and economies. At the pre-primary level, among the few countries and economies with available data for 2000 and 2019, teaching time decreased by 10% or more in Portugal (by 190 hours) and Scotland (United Kingdom) (by 95 hours). At other levels of education, teaching time decreased by 10% or more in Mexico at lower secondary level (by 168 hours), in the Netherlands at both lower and upper secondary levels (by 147 hours), in Scotland (United Kingdom) at primary level (by 95 hours) and in Turkey at upper secondary level (by 64 hours). The reduction was 22% in Korea at primary level (by 189 hours). In Scotland (United Kingdom), the reduction in teaching time for primary teachers was part of the teachers’ agreement, “A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century”, which introduced a 35-hour working week for all teachers and a phased reduction of maximum teaching hours to 22.5 hours per week for primary, secondary and special school teachers in 2001. In Chile, the fall has also been significant as the regulations have gradually decreased teaching time since 2016 by 14% (159 hours) in pre-primary, primary and secondary school teachers. However, even with this decrease in net contact time, the maximum time teachers at these levels in Chile and Scotland (United Kingdom) can be required to teach is still longer than the OECD average (Table D4.6, available on line).

Statutory teaching time, as reported by most of the countries in this indicator, refers to teaching time as defined in regulations. However, individual teachers’ teaching time may differ from the regulations, because of overtime, for example. Actual teaching time is the annual average number of hours that full-time teachers teach a group or a class of students, including overtime, and it thus provides a full picture of teachers’ actual teaching load. However, actual teaching time (actual time spent in the classroom) includes other activities than teaching, such as keeping order and administrative tasks. On average across the OECD countries participating in the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), lower secondary teachers self-reported that they spent 78% of classroom time on teaching and learning in 2018 (OECD, 2019[1]).

While only a few countries were able to report both statutory and actual teaching time, these data suggest that actual teaching time can sometimes differ from the statutory requirements. In New Zealand, Poland and Slovenia, for example, lower secondary teachers actually teach 6 to 15% more hours than their statutory teaching time (Figure D4.6, available on line).

Differences between statutory and actual teaching time can be the result of overtime due to teacher absenteeism or shortages, or may be explained by the nature of the data, as figures on statutory teaching time refer to official requirements and agreements, whereas actual teaching time is based on administrative registers, statistical databases, representative sample surveys or other representative sources.

Whereas teaching is the primary or main responsibility of teachers, it can also be part of the responsibilities of school heads in some countries.

Among the 28 countries with available information, school heads in pre-primary institutions are required to take some teaching responsibility in 14 countries (50%), can voluntarily teach in 3 countries (11%) and are not required to teach in 11 countries (39%). In primary education, teaching is required from school heads in more than half of the countries with available data (19 out of 34 countries). Teaching responsibilities become less common for school heads at the secondary level. In general lower secondary education, school heads are required to teach in 15 out of 34 countries (44%), are free to teach at their own discretion in 5 countries (15%), and are not required to teach in 14 countries (41%). Similarly, in general upper secondary education: teaching is a requirement in 14 out of 34 countries (41%), a voluntary task in 5 countries (15%) and is not part of the responsibilities of the school heads in 15 countries (44%). In all the countries with available data, the teaching responsibilities of school heads in secondary education are similar in general and vocational programmes (Table D4.7, available on line).

Most of the countries where teaching is one of the responsibilities of school heads, do not set a specific number of teaching hours for them, but rather define minimum and/or maximum teaching hours. In lower secondary general programmes, for example, the minimum statutory teaching time for school heads (converted into hours per year) ranges from 0 hours (i.e. exempt from teaching) to 194 hours, and the maximum statutory teaching time from 148 hours to 594 hours. In most of these countries, teaching represents less than 30% of school heads’ statutory working time, but the proportion reaches 36% in the Slovak Republic and exceeds 73% in Ireland (in the Education and Training Board sector) (Table D4.7, available on line). The maximum teaching time is usually only required for school heads in specific circumstances. For example, in Ireland almost all school heads actually have either no or minimal teaching hours (for more information on minimum and/or maximum teaching time requirements, refer to Table X3.D4.9 in Annex 3).

Although teaching may be required for school heads at all levels of education in a given country, their minimum and maximum teaching requirements could vary across levels of education. In a majority of the countries with teaching requirements, the number of teaching hours required from school heads decreases as the level of education increases. The exceptions are Australia, where teaching requirements increase between the pre-primary and primary education, and Turkey, where teaching requirements for school heads are the same at all levels of education (Table D4.7, available on line).

In almost all countries, the teaching requirements for school heads do not vary between general and vocational programmes. At upper secondary level, Finland is the only country where the teaching requirements vary significantly ─ maximum teaching time requirements for school heads are 30% higher in general programmes than in vocational programmes (Table D4.7, available on line).

In all countries where school heads have teaching responsibilities, except Turkey, the requirements vary based on specific criteria related to school heads. In a large majority of these countries, the characteristics of the school such as its size (number of students, teachers and/or classes) and/or the level of education it covers are important determinants of the teaching requirements. Geographical location or the socioeconomic status of the region may also be considered (in Australia and Ireland).

In the majority of countries, teachers’ working time is partly determined by the statutory teaching time specified in working regulations. In addition, in most countries, teachers are formally required to work a specific number of hours per year, as stipulated in collective agreements or other contractual arrangements. This may be specified either as the number of hours teachers must be available at school for teaching and non-teaching activities, or as the number of total working hours. Both correspond to official working hours as specified in contractual agreements, and countries differ in how they allocate time for each activity.

More than half of OECD countries and economies specify the length of time teachers are required to be available at school, for both teaching and non-teaching activities, for at least one level of education. In over one-third of these countries, the difference between the time upper secondary school teachers and pre-primary school teachers are required to be available at school is less than 5%. However, in half of these countries (Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden and Turkey), pre-primary teachers are required to be available at school for at least 20% more hours than upper secondary school teachers and the difference even exceeds 40% in Latvia and New Zealand (although total statutory working time is the same for both levels in Hungary, Iceland, Sweden and Turkey) (Table D4.2).

In some other countries, teachers’ total annual statutory working time (at school and elsewhere) is specified, but the allocation of time spent at school and time spent elsewhere is not. This is the case in Austria (in primary and lower secondary education), the Czech Republic, England (United Kingdom), Estonia (in primary and secondary education), France (in lower and upper secondary education), the French Community of Belgium (in pre-primary and primary education), Germany, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Switzerland (Table D4.2). Of these, teachers in France, Germany (in some Länder), Japan, Korea, Portugal and Turkey are subject to the same statutory working time as civil servants (for more information on the definition of teachers’ working time, see Table X3.D4.7 in Annex 3).

In addition, workloads and teaching load requirements may evolve throughout a teacher’s career. In a number of countries, some new teachers have a reduced teaching load as part of their induction programmes. Some countries also encourage older teachers to stay in the teaching profession by diversifying their duties and reducing their teaching hours. For example, in Portugal, teachers may have a reduced teaching workload based on their age, number of years in the profession or for doing extracurricular activities at school. Iceland reduces the teaching time of primary and lower secondary teachers according to their age: teachers aged 55 or over receive a reduction of teaching time (from 46 hours, or 8% of the statutory teaching time, for 55-59 year-olds to 162 hours, or 27% of teaching time, for those aged 60 and over).

Although teaching time is a substantial component of teachers’ workloads, other activities such as assessing students, preparing lessons, correcting students’ work, in-service training and staff meetings should also be taken into account when analysing the demands placed on them in different countries. The amount of time available for these non-teaching activities varies across countries; a larger proportion of statutory working time spent teaching may indicate that a lower proportion of working time is devoted to these activities (Figure D4.3).

Even though teaching is a core activity for teachers, in a large number of countries, they spend most of their working time on activities other than teaching. In the 25 countries and economies with data for both teaching and total working time for lower secondary teachers, 44% of teachers’ working time is spent on teaching on average, with the proportion ranging from 35% or less in Austria, Iceland, Korea, Poland and Turkey to at least 50% in Chile, Colombia, Israel, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Scotland (United Kingdom) (Figure D4.3).

While the proportion of working time spent teaching increases with the number of teaching hours per year, there are some variations between countries. For example, Germany and Spain have a similar number of teaching hours (651 hours in Germany and 669 hours in Spain), but 37% of teachers’ working time is spent on teaching in Germany, compared to 47% in Spain. In some countries, teachers devote similar proportions of their working time to teaching, despite having considerably different teaching hours. For example, in Estonia and Switzerland, lower secondary teachers spend about 39% of their working time teaching, but teachers teach 606 hours in Estonia, compared to 748 hours in Switzerland (Figure D4.3).

In some countries, such as Austria (upper secondary level), Costa Rica, the Flemish and French communities of Belgium (lower and upper secondary levels), Italy and Mexico (upper secondary level), there are no formal requirements for time spent on non-teaching activities. However, this does not mean that teachers are given total freedom to carry out other tasks. In the Flemish Community of Belgium, although there are no regulations regarding the time devoted to preparing lessons, correcting tests, marking students’ papers and other non-teaching tasks, additional non-teaching hours at school are set at the school level. In Italy, teachers are required to perform up to 80 hours of scheduled non-teaching collegial work at school per year. Of these 80 hours, up to 40 hours are dedicated to meetings of the teachers’ assembly, staff planning meetings and meetings with parents, with the remaining 40 compulsory hours dedicated to class councils (Table D4.2).

Non-teaching tasks are a part of teachers’ workload and working conditions. The non-teaching activities required by legislation, regulations or agreements between stakeholders (e.g. teachers’ unions, local authorities and school boards) do not necessarily reflect teachers’ actual participation in non-teaching activities, but they provide an insight into the breadth and complexity of teachers’ roles.

Individual teachers often do not have the authority to choose whether to perform certain tasks related to teaching. According to regulations in more than 35 out of the 42 countries and economies with available data for general lower secondary education, individual planning or preparing lessons, marking and correcting student work, and communicating and co-operating with parents are mandatory non-teaching tasks for teachers during their statutory working time. General administrative work and teamwork, and dialogue with colleagues are also required in at least 30 countries, and can be decided at the school level in at least 5 other countries with available data. For such mandatory tasks, incentives such as reductions in teaching time and financial compensation are rare (Table D4.3).

Responsibilities such as being class/form teacher, participating in mentoring programmes and/or supporting new teachers in induction programmes or participating in school or other management in addition to teaching duties are largely distributed among general lower secondary teachers in more than two out of five countries. In over half of these countries, participation in school or other management activities can result in specific compensation for teachers. In some countries, their teaching time might be reduced to balance the workload between teaching and other responsibilities, in addition to financial compensation (Table D4.4).

Of the various tasks teachers might perform, full-time classroom teachers (in general lower secondary education) are either required or asked to perform student counselling in more than half of countries and economies with available information. However, in some countries, not all teachers can perform student counselling. For example, in Israel, only teachers with master’s degree or higher can perform this duty. In Iceland, this duty is not performed by teachers, but by special student counsellors (Table D4.4).

Teachers do not only perform the tasks that are required by regulations or school heads; they also often perform tasks voluntarily. In about half of the countries with available data at the general lower secondary level, individual teachers decide themselves whether to engage in extracurricular activities or whether to train student teachers. Teaching more classes or hours than their full-time contract requires is also a voluntary decision by teachers in about two-fifths of the countries and more than two-thirds of these countries offer financial compensation for this additional teaching (Table D4.4).

Participation in professional development activities is considered an important responsibility of teachers at all levels of education, as it is mandatory for teachers at all levels in 24 countries. Participation is required at the discretion of individual schools in 10 countries for at least one level of education. Only seven countries allow teachers to participate in professional development activities at their own discretion. Regardless of the requirement, a large majority of teachers in OECD countries participate in professional development activities (OECD, 2019[1]). For more information on requirements related to teachers’ compulsory professional development activities, see Box D4.3.

In general, requirements to perform certain tasks and responsibilities do not vary much across levels of education. However, there can be some differences reflecting the changing needs of students at different levels of education. For example, lower secondary teachers are required to supervise students during breaks in 17 countries, but this is much more widespread at pre-primary (23 countries) and primary (22 countries) level (Annex Table D4.3).

As with teachers’ working time, many OECD and partner countries define school heads’ statutory working time under relevant regulations or collective or individual contracts. In France, Japan, Korea, Mexico (upper secondary education) and Turkey, civil servants’ regulations apply for school heads’ working time (as for teachers, except in Mexico). Only in the Flemish Community of Belgium, Germany (in most Länder), Greece, Italy and Luxembourg, are there no official documents specifying quantitative information on the working time for school heads (Table X3.D4.8 in Annex 3).

According to levels of education, on average across OECD countries and economies school heads work 43-45 weeks, or more than 210 days, per year. On average, the school heads’ annual statutory working hours do not vary much between levels of education: they average 1 658 hours at the pre-primary level, 1 630 hours at primary level, 1 628 hours at lower secondary level and 1 632 hours at upper secondary level. There is no difference in the number of statutory working hours between general and vocational programmes in the countries with both programmes in lower and/or upper secondary education. Across all levels of education, school heads in Chile have the longest hours (1 971 hours per year). In contrast, school heads’ statutory working hours are lowest in Mexico (at pre-primary level) and Ireland (for primary and lower and upper secondary general programmes) where statutory working hours are below 1 300 hours per year (Figure D4.5 and Table D4.5).

In 21 out of 29 OECD and partner countries and economies with available data (72%), school heads’ annual working hours do not vary much across levels of education. In the remaining eight countries where their statutory working time do vary, school heads in pre-primary education generally work more hours per year than those in secondary education. For example, school heads’ statutory hours in pre-primary schools are 2-8% higher than in primary and secondary schools in Estonia, Finland and New Zealand. Mexico is the only country where school heads have shorter working hours at pre-primary and primary levels than at lower secondary level (by 14%) and at upper secondary level (by 26%) (Table D4.5).

In about two-thirds of the OECD countries and economies with available data, the statutory working time of school heads includes working during students’ (seasonal) school holidays. The amount worked during students’ school holidays could range from about 1 week in Austria and the Netherlands (at the request of the school heads’ employers) to 11 weeks in Turkey. During students’ school holidays, school heads in some of these countries are required to prepare for the new school semester and arrange professional development programmes etc. In the other one-third of countries, the regulations do not require school heads to work during students’ school holidays. Nevertheless, the actual practice could be different. For example, school heads in Ireland may work during at least a part of students’ school holidays although it is not included in their statutory working time (Table X3.D4.8 in Annex 3).

In more than half of the OECD and partner countries with available data, regulations explicitly state that school heads are expected to play managerial and leadership roles. In addition, school heads can be required to perform other tasks and responsibilities, such as management of human/financial resources, organising professional development activities, organising students’ educational activities and teaching students as well as facilitating good relations with parents, education inspectorates, and/or the government. In a majority of countries, the tasks and responsibilities required from school heads do not vary across levels of education and educational programmes (for more details, refer to Table X3.D4.8 in Annex 3).

However, in about one-quarter of countries with available information (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland [United Kingdom] and Sweden), official documents on the working conditions of school heads do not detail their responsibilities and tasks. School heads in these countries may have more autonomy in organising their work and responsibilities (Table X3.D4.8 in Annex 3).

Actual teaching time is the annual average number of hours that full-time teachers teach a group or class of students. It includes all extra hours, such as overtime. Data on these hours can be sourced from administrative registers, statistical databases, representative sample surveys or other representative sources.

The number of teaching days is the number of teaching weeks multiplied by the number of days per week a teacher teaches, minus the number of days on which the school is closed for holidays.

The number of teaching weeks refers to the number of weeks of instruction excluding holiday weeks.

Statutory teaching time is defined as the scheduled number of 60-minute hours per year that a full-time teacher (or a school head) teaches a group or class of students, as set by policy, their employment contracts or other official documents. Teaching time can be defined on a weekly or annual basis. Annual teaching time is normally calculated as the number of teaching days per year multiplied by the number of hours a teacher teaches per day (excluding preparation time). It is a net contact time for instruction, as it excludes periods of time formally allowed for breaks between lessons or groups of lessons and the days that the school is closed for holidays. At pre-primary and primary levels, short breaks between lessons are included if the classroom teacher is responsible for the class during these breaks.

Total statutory working time refers to the number of hours that a full-time teacher or school head is expected to work as set by policy. It can be defined on a weekly or annual basis. It does not include paid overtime. According to a country’s formal policy, working time can refer to:

  • the time directly associated with teaching and other curricular activities for students, such as assignments and tests

  • the time directly associated with teaching and other activities related to teaching, such as preparing lessons, counselling students, correcting assignments and tests, professional development, meetings with parents, staff meetings, and general school tasks.

Working time required at school (of teachers) refers to the time teachers are required to spend working at school, including teaching and non-teaching time.

In interpreting differences in teaching hours among countries, net contact time, as used here, does not necessarily correspond to the teaching load. Although contact time is a substantial component of teachers’ workloads, preparing for classes and necessary follow-up, including correcting students’ work, also need to be included when making comparisons. Other relevant elements, such as the number of subjects taught, the number of students taught and the number of years a teacher teaches the same students, should also be taken into account.

For more information please see the OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparable Education Statistics 2018 (OECD, 2018[2]) and Annex 3 for country specific notes (

Data are from the 2019 OECD-INES-NESLI Survey on Working Time of Teachers and School Heads and refer to the school year 2018/19 (statutory information) or school year 2017/18 (actual data).


[1] OECD (2019), TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I): Teachers and School Leaders as Lifelong Learners, TALIS, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[2] OECD (2018), OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics 2018: Concepts, Standards, Definitions and Classifications, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Table D4.1 Organisation of teachers’ teaching time (2019)

Table D4.2 Organisation of teachers’ working time (2019)

Table D4.3 Tasks of teachers, by level of education (2019)

Table D4.4 Other responsibilities of teachers, by level of education (2019)

Table D4.5 Organisation of school heads’ working time (2019)

WEB Table D4.6 Number of teaching hours per year (2000, 2005 to 2019)

WEB Table D4.7 Teaching requirements of school heads (2019)


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