Secondary education

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The secondary education area , also secondary education or secondary level or secondary education , comprises the area in the education system of a state that prepares for higher-qualified occupations based on a completed primary education (primary education). It is often further divided into two areas (in Germany and Switzerland, for example, secondary level I and upper secondary level , in Austria lower level and upper level of general secondary schools (grammar schools)).

International classification

ISCED classification:     orange / red… secondary education using the example of school types in Austria , systematic structure and comparison with school levels and average age .

Internationally, those institutions and training courses that are classified by UNESCO at ISCED levels 2 and 3 are included in the secondary education sector .

Levels in education

Generally, dividing the secondary education after the age in:

  • ISCED 2: secondary education first stage , which covers roughly older children between the ages of eight and fifteen
  • ISCED 3: secondary education second stage (upper secondary level or upper secondary education) for the level of twelve to nineteen year olds

Schools in the secondary education sector are called secondary schools , although one type of school can certainly begin with primary education. The age limits at which one changes from primary to secondary education and at which one usually leaves secondary education fluctuate widely around the world. Attending the lower secondary level is necessary in most countries to fulfill compulsory schooling , the upper secondary level schools are mostly attended voluntarily.

It should be noted that the term secondary education does not coincide worldwide with the term secondary education : In Denmark , Portugal , Finland and Sweden or parts of Canada, for example, there is a uniform compulsory school over nine school levels, so that there is no independent lower secondary level, with 'secondary education' if you mean the upper secondary level there. In many Asian countries there are several speed levels at which students can complete the secondary level in a shorter time.

General and vocational education

According to the educational goal one separates:

Explicit vocational training in the lower secondary level / lower level is not considered the state of affairs because it amounts to child labor , which is why the lower level schools in the industrialized countries consistently provide general education. In France, for example, a technical focus can already be chosen in the last two years of the collèges (corresponds roughly to lower secondary education / lower secondary level), in Luxembourg the technical focus is from the beginning of lower secondary level.

In some countries, general education predominates in secondary education ( Western Europe , Scandinavia , Anglo-Saxon school systems), while vocational training dominates in Central and Eastern Europe .

Levels of education in secondary education

A distinction is made after further training

The following is then classified as the lower education area (lower education) : only completion of primary school, or only completion of compulsory schooling without vocational training, as well as dropping out of school as an individual career (unskilled) , or purely vocational training without attending school - the latter is not in the industrialized countries today more common, but the norm of educational careers worldwide.

These classic classifications are viewed critically because they already lead to a social classification in the age groups that force a school decision (completion of elementary school, completion of compulsory schooling), but also through the terms 'lower' and 'higher education' . Today they are broken open by numerous other educational models, or tried to break open.

Common names for types of schools in secondary education

Organization of the secondary area of ​​individual states


In Germany, the secondary level comprises grades 5 to 13 (in the shortened education course 12), so depending on the federal state with a school age of 5–7 years and compulsory schooling of 10–12 years, as a rule, pupils in the ages 9–19 years. The schools are divided relatively consistently into lower secondary level (ISCED 2, end of compulsory education) and upper secondary level (upper level, ISCED 3).


In Austria, grades 5 to 12 correspond to the secondary level, including the 11–19 year old regular school students. One speaks of lower level (levels 5–8, ISCED 2) and upper level (levels 9–12, ISCED 3), whereby the compulsory education is completed after the end of the 9th grade. For those students who do not attend secondary school , there is a special one-year school that completes compulsory education: the Polytechnic School (ISCED-3B). For details see types of schools in the Austrian education system .


In Switzerland, depending on the canton, the secondary level begins in the fourth to sixth grade (6 is the rule for the end of the primary level) and ends in the 13th to 15th grade, so that generally ten to twenty year olds can be found at this level of education are. The separation into secondary level I (upper level, ISCED 2) and upper secondary level (ISCED 3) can be seen throughout Switzerland with the end of compulsory schooling at the end of the ninth grade, with the exception of the long-term high school, whose upper secondary level begins in the 8th grade, and the voluntary tenth year of school .


In Liechtenstein, the entire ISCED 2 secondary level (6–8 school level, primary level 5 years) is called, ISCED 3 from the end of compulsory school at 15 years of secondary school (9–12 level), it includes the pupils who, as a rule, are 11 –19 years old.


Individual evidence

  1. a b Lit. EC, Eurydice, Eurostat (Ed.): Key figures . 2005, p. 63 .
  2. Lit. EC, Eurydice, Eurostat (Ed.): Key figures . 2005, p. 64 f .