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

Statutory working and teaching hours only partially determine the actual workload of teachers and school heads, nonetheless they do help understanding what is expected from teachers and school heads in different countries.

Together with salaries (see Indicator D3) and average class sizes (see Indicator D2), this indicator presents some key measures of the working lives of teachers and school heads. Furthermore, it can affect the amount of financial resources countries allocate to education (see Indicator C7).

Teaching Time of Teachers

On average, across OECD countries and economies, pre-primary teachers are required to teach 989 hours per year (for 195 days). At the pre-primary level there is the most variation in hours required (from 532 hours of teaching per year in Mexico to 1,755 in Germany). These variations result from the combination of school year length and number of teaching hours per day.

The OECD daily teaching average is of more than 4 hours per day (791 hours per year) in primary school.

Whereas lower secondary school teachers teach on average 723 hours per year. However, teaching time varies considerably depending on country (from less than 600 hours in Finland to more than 1000 hours in Costa Rica, see Figure D4.1).

In some countries, the teaching time requirements may vary during a teacher’s career. For example, new teachers may have a reduced teaching load to give them time to settle in and older teachers may have reduced teaching load to allow them to keep teaching despite their age.

Therefore, teaching time tends to decrease as the level of education increases. The exceptions are Chile and Scotland (UK), where teachers are required to teach the same number of hours at all levels of education.

The largest difference in teaching time requirements is between the pre-primary and primary levels of education. In the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia and Slovenia, pre-primary school teachers are required to teach at least twice the number of hours per year as primary school teachers (see Figure D4.1)

Statutory teaching time refers to teaching time as defined by regulations. However, actual teaching time is the annual average hours spent teaching students, including overtime. Hence, the data suggests that the two parameters do not always coincide. Indeed, in Poland, lower secondary teachers teach 21% more hours than what is defined by regulations.

Teaching Time of School Heads

In almost half of the countries with available data, school heads in pre-primary institutions are also required to teach.

As for teachers, in countries where there are teaching requirements, the teaching hours required from school heads decrease as the level of education increases.

Working Time of Teachers

Countries differ in how they allocate teachers’ working time for each activity. More than half of OECD countries specify how much time teachers should be available at school, whereas other countries do not specify where teachers should fulfil their working hours.

In 17 OECD countries and economies, teachers’ statutory working time includes working time during students’ school holidays in at least one level of education. This can further the variation among countries in the annual working hours of teaching.

Teaching is the main component of teachers’ workloads, however, other activities such as assessing students, preparing lessons, correcting students’ work, in-service training and staff meetings should also be considered when analysing the demands placed on teachers.

In fact, on average, teachers spend only 44% of their working time teaching.

Teachers not only perform the non-teaching tasks that are required by regulations or school heads, they also often perform tasks voluntarily. In at least 17 countries and economies at the general lower secondary level, individual teachers decide themselves whether to engage in extracurricular activities.

Participation in professional development activities is pivotal for teachers at all levels of education, in fact it is mandatory in 23 countries.

In general, non-teaching tasks and responsibilities of teachers do not vary much across educational levels.


Figure D4.4. Task requirements of teachers, by tasks and responsibilities (2020)
Lower secondary teachers in public institutions

Figure D4.4. Task requirements of teachers, by tasks and responsibilities (2020)

Working time of school heads

As for teachers, many OECD countries define school heads’ statutory working time through regulations or contracts. Only in England (United Kingdom), the Flemish Community of Belgium, Germany and Italy are there no official documents specifying the working time for school heads.

On average, school heads work 212-215 days per year and their statutory working hours do not vary much across educational levels (average of 1,634 hours per year). Across all levels of education, school heads in Chile work the highest number of hours (1,998 hours per year), whereas those in Mexico and Ireland the least (below 1,300 hours per year).

In two/thirds of OECD countries with available data, school heads working time includes working during students’ school holidays (from 1 week in Austria and the Netherlands to 11 in Turkey).

In addition to fulfilling their managment and leadership roles, school heads can be expected to perform other tasks such as managing human/financial resources, organising professional development activities and students’ educational activities, and teaching students, as well as facilitating good relations with parents, education inspectorates and/or the government.

In most OECD countries, the tasks and responsibilities required from school heads do not vary across educational levels.



Data are from the 2020 OECD-INES-NESLI Survey on Working Time of Teachers and School Heads and refer to the school year 2019/20 (statutory information) or school year 2018/19 (actual data).


Summarized by Francisca Orrego Galarce from OECD, Education at a Glance 2021: OECD Indicators – Indicator D4. How much time do teachers and school heads spend teaching and working?