Though education is listed as compulsory for all children aged 7 to 14, attendance is not enforced. All public education is free. The language of instruction is French. As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 3% of GDP.
Primary education lasts for six years and secondary for seven years. Secondary education consists of either a general or technical course of study. Projected adult illiteracy is projected at only 77% for the year 2000 (males, 66.8%; and females, 86.9%). As of 1999, 35% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school, while 8% of those eligible attended secondary school.
In 1996 primary schools enrolled 700,995 pupils and had 14,037 teachers. At the secondary level in 1993–94, students enrolled in general education numbered 116,003 while those in vocational training numbered 8,808. There were 3,346 general education teachers at the secondary level. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 50 to 1 in 1999.
The Center for Higher Education was established in 1969, and in 1974 it became the University of Ouagadougou. In 1997 there were 8,911 students and 352 teachers in all higher level institutions.