The International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) was designed to facilitate the compilation and comparison of education statistics both within and across national boundaries. It combines two cross-classification variables (levels and fields of education) with the type of education (general/vocational/pre-vocational) or students’ intended destination (tertiary education or direct entry into the labour market).

  • ISCED 0: Early childhood education (‘less than primary’ for educational attainment)

Pre-primary education is defined as the initial stage of organised instruction. It is school-based or centre-based and is designed for children aged at least 3 years.

  • ISCED 1: Primary education

This level begins between 5 and 7 years of age, is compulsory in all countries and generally lasts from 4 to 6 years.

  • ISCED 2: Lower secondary education

Continues the basic programmes of primary education, although teaching is typically more subject focused. Usually, the end of this level coincides with the end of compulsory education.

  • ISCED 3: Upper secondary education

This level generally begins at the end of compulsory education. The entrance age is typically 15 or 16 years. Entrance qualifications (completion of compulsory education) and other minimum entry requirements are usually needed. Instruction is often more subject-oriented than at ISCED level 2. The typical duration of ISCED level 3 varies from two to five years.

  • ISCED 4: Post-secondary non-tertiary education

These programmes straddle the boundary between upper secondary and tertiary education. They serve to broaden the knowledge of ISCED level 3 graduates. Typical examples are programmes designed to prepare pupils for studies at level 5, or programmes designed to prepare pupils for direct entry to the labour market.

  • ISCED 5: Short-cycle tertiary education

Entry to these programmes normally requires the successful completion of ISCED level 3 or 4. This level includes tertiary programmes with academic orientation (type A) which are largely theoretically based and tertiary programmes with occupation orientation (type B) which are typically shorter than type A programmes and geared for entry into the labour market.

  • ISCED 6: Bachelor’s or equivalent level

Programmes designed to provide intermediate academic and/or professional knowledge, skills and competencies leading to a first tertiary degree or equivalent qualification.

  • ISCED 7: Master’s or equivalent level

Programmes designed to provide advanced academic and/or professional knowledge, skills and competencies leading to a second tertiary degree or equivalent qualification.

  • ISCED 8: Doctoral or equivalent level

Programmes designed primarily to lead to an advanced research qualification, usually concluding with the submission and defense of a substantive dissertation of publishable quality based on original research.