ISCED 2011 Operational Manual

Guidelines for Classifying National Education Programmes and Related Qualifications

Published on March 20, 2015

Also available in: Spanish, French


The structure of education systems varies widely between countries. In order to produce internationally comparable education statistics and indicators, it is necessary to have a framework to collect and report data on education programmes with a similar level of educational content. UNESCO’s International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) is the reference classification for organising education programmes and related qualifications by education levels and fields. The basic concepts and definitions of ISCED are intended to be internationally valid and comprehensive of the full range of education systems.

ISCED 2011 is the second major revision of this classification (initially developed in the 1970s and first revised in 1997). It was adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in November 2011. Prepared jointly by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), the OECD and Eurostat, this operational manual provides guidelines and explanatory notes for the interpretation of the revised classification, by each education level. It also includes country examples of programmes and qualifications that have been classified to ISCED 2011.

This manual will be useful for national statisticians collecting and reporting data on education to international organisations, as well as for policymakers and researchers interested in better understanding of these data.


Foreword and Acknowledgements
Reader's guide
ISCED 2011 Overview1 chapter available
ISCED 2011 overview
ISCED 2011 levels 0 to 4: From early childhood education to post-secondary non-tertiary education5 chapters available
ISCED 2011 Level 0: Early childhood education
ISCED 2011 Level 1: Primary education
ISCED 2011 Level 2: Lower secondary education
ISCED 2011 Level 3: Upper secondary education
ISCED 2011 Level 4: Post-secondary non-tertiary education
ISCED levels 5 to 8: Tertiary education5 chapters available
Tertiary Education
ISCED 2011 Level 5: Short-cycle tertiary education
ISCED 2011 Level 6: Bachelor's or equivalent level
ISCED 2011 Level 7: Master's or equivalent level
ISCED 2011 Level 8: Doctoral or equivalent level
Annexes3 chapters available
Summary table of ISCED 2011 codes and criteria
Potential educational pathways in ISCED 2011
Quick reference of ISCED-P and ISCED-A codes in ISCED 2011
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