Poor education? More class time has not improved academic results in Spain

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Spanish high school students perform worse on PISA tests than Finnish pupils, even though they spend 246 more hours in the classroom

What is PISA?

Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a test from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that is given every three years to 15-year-old students in both private and public schools from all over the world. The exam tests the students in reading, mathematics and science. Over half a million 15-year-olds from 80 countries and economies took the PISA test in 2018.

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The results, published on Tuesday, have concluded that though a Spanish high school student receives 1,045 hours of class time in a year – 246 more than a Finnish student (808) – they perform worse on average.

1,045 study hours in a year is broken down into six hours in class plus three of four hours on homework, projects and other school activities. “That is longer than the working day of many emplyees.” As stated by Raimundo de los Reyes, the head of FEDADI, the federation that brings together the leaders of public secondary schools. Reyes further indicates that students in Spain study for too many hours.

“I would do away with 10 hours if in exchange we had fewer students in the classroom and could give them more personalized attention. We need resources, more assistant teachers, and to give more time for teachers to prepare all classes, not just the ones in English,” he added.


Andreas Schleicher, the head of PISA Tests, is ademant that more class time does not guarantee a better education. “When countries improve the quality of their teaching, they tend to achieve better results without increasing the learning time of the student.”

The latest testing ranks Spain in the middle in terms of academic performance, while Finland (with much less class time) is an international leader.


Sweden, Norway and Japan have similar class hours to Finland and are also amongst the best-ranked academically. Japanese students, for example, study 42 hours a week (28 in the classroom and 14 extracurricular) on average almost two hours less per day than in Spain.

In fact, Spain with 1,045 hours of class time in a year surpasses the EU average (893 hours) and the OECD average (910). The difference in class time is also evident at the primary school level, but is less pronounced. Spain has 792 hours of class, 23 more than the EU average and nine more than the OECD average.

Alejandro Tiana, Spain’s education secretary of state, has invited the education community to discuss the allocation of school hours. “We have to reflect about how school time is used in Spain,” he said.

Maribel Loranca, the head of education at the UGT trade union, agrees class time should be cut, arguing long hours “take away time from attention for families, personal treatment and innovation.”

Meanwhile, PISA experts warn that Spain will not improve its academic performance until students spend more time on finding their own solutions to problems and less on memorizing information.




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