Cost implications for the amount of instruction time at different ages International data with reference


Cost implications for the amount of instruction time at different ages
International data show that the salary cost of teachers per student increases with the level of
education (OECD, 2013a). The increased amount of instruction time in secondary education compared to
primary education contributes to these higher costs, along with higher teacher salaries (Figure 2.4). At the
same time, larger classes in secondary education tend to reduce the salary cost of teachers per student.

Organisation of the school year
In the OECD, the school year varies significantly due to the different seasons in the Northern and
Southern hemispheres. There are three broad blocks of countries according to when the school year starts:
• January to February: In Australia and New Zealand, the school year runs from late January or
early February to mid-December, while in Chile from late February or early March to midDecember.
• March to April: In Korea, the school year runs from March to February and in Japan from April
to March.
• August to September:

 In most European countries, the school year starts at the beginning of
September and ends in mid-June. In the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway
and Iceland) the school year runs from mid-late August until mid-June. In Canada and the
United States, the school year runs from early September until June; in Mexico from mid-August
until July; and in Israel from late August to late June. In Greece, Portugal and Turkey, the school
year runs from late September until June.
In 2011, the OECD average school year for students in primary education comprised 38 weeks of
instruction ranging from 35 weeks in Estonia to 42 weeks in Denmark (Figure 2.6).

 In the majority of
OECD countries, the number of weeks of instruction are the same in primary and lower secondary
education. But in Israel, Ireland, Poland and Greece, there are fewer weeks of instruction at the lower
secondary level. Given the increase in allocated instruction time for older students in many countries
(Figure 2.2), there is a higher intensity of weekly instruction time for students in lower secondary
education, as shown by the darker bars in Figure 2.6. In 2014, in all but two OECD countries with
available data, children have an average of 5 instruction days per school week (OECD, 2014b,
Table D1.2). 

The exceptions are Israel (6 days) and France at the primary level (4.5 days).
The allocated instruction time varies significantly among countries with the same number of weeks of
instruction resulting in different intensity of weekly instruction time for students. For example, among the
countries with 38 weeks of instruction in primary education, Finland allocates 661 hours of instruction,
while Chile allocates 1 049 hours of instruction. This translates into 17 hours per week for primary school
students in Finland and 28 hours per week for their counterparts in Chile (Figure 2.6). Similarly, while
both the Flemish Community of Belgium and Ireland allocate around 930 hours of instruction in lower
secondary education, this is over a period of 37 weeks in the Flemish Community of Belgium compared to
33 weeks in Ireland, meaning students in Flemish lower secondary schools have fewer hours of instruction
per week (25 hours, compared to 28 hours in Ireland). For countries with available data, there is no clear
relation between intensity of instruction and teacher reports on student sleepiness impacting instruction
(Figure 2.6 and Mullis et al., 2012b). Although this is particularly high in France where a reform in 2013
redistributed the hours of instruction during the school week in primary education (see Box 2.1).

The sequence of instruction weeks and breaks
In 2011, primary and lower secondary students had 14 weeks of school holidays on average in the
OECD (Figure 2.6). These can be distributed among different parts of the school year and the sequencing
and length of breaks varies among countries. Among the OECD countries in Europe, the length of summer
holidays varies from 6 to 13 weeks (Figure 2.7). Historically, the long summer breaks in Western school
calendars were designed to fit the needs of local, typically agricultural communities (Noonan, 2002; Schell
and Penner, 1993). For example, in the United States before standardisation of calendars in the
20th century, some rural schools offered only six months of instruction, or approximately two times less
than urban schools, which organised 11 or even 12 months of classes (Patall et al., 2010). 

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