In Germany and Switzerland it is equivalent to a combined primary (Grundschule and Primarschule, respectively) and lower secondary education (Hauptschule or Sekundarschule), usually comprising a mandatory attendance over a period of nine years. In Austria, Volksschule solely is used for primary school from Year One to Year Four. In the Nordic countries they are referred to as Folkskolen and in Finnish, in a direct translation, as Kansakoulu; these schools covered the first years of primary education, from the ages of 7 to 11 or 12.
Similar Volksschulen were established in the Electorate of Saxony and in the German-speaking parts of the Habsburg Monarchy, backed by Johann Ignaz von Felbiger, through a system of state-supported primary one-room schools. Attendance was supposedly compulsory, but a 1781 census reveals that only one fourth of school-age children attended. At the time, this was one of the few examples of state-supported schooling. Sending one's children to school was binding by law only from 1840 in the Austrian Empire.