Compulsory schooling

Compulsory schooling refers to an obligatory period of education that every child is required to complete. Compulsory schooling usually finishes when the child reaches a specific level of education and/or a certain age. The table shows the highest age up to which compulsory schooling is provided for, although in some Member States, the child can finish earlier, provided they reach a certain level of education.

The data explorer also provides information on the minimum age for compulsory schooling. Please note that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provides data on the starting and ending age for compulsory education. For more information, visit OECDiLibrary.

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Key aspects

  • In twelve Member States, the upper age for compulsory schooling is set at 16 years (Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom).
  • Four Member States (Austria, Cyprus, Croatia, Malta) set 15 years as the upper age for compulsory schooling; in four Member States it is 17 years (Czechia, Denmark, Estonia and Finland) and in 6 years, it is 18 years (Belgium, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Sweden).
  • In certain Member States, the upper age for compulsory education is slightly lower if the child manages to reach a certain class (for example in Czechia, Romania and Sweden).
  • In Belgium, after the age of 15 years, only part-time schooling is compulsory. In this Member State, legal rules also differ according to the language community (French, Flemish) the child is associated with. In the Netherlands, there is an obligation for students who do not have a high school qualification to follow at least one day of schooling a week until they are 18 years old.