Argentina has one of the lowest illiteracy rates in Latin America, estimated at 3% (males, 3%; females, 3%) for the year 2000. Education is free, secular, and compulsory for all children at the primary level. In 1993 Argentina switched from seven years of primary and five years of secondary education to a system known as EGB, consisting of nine compulsory years divided into three-year stages. This is followed by a three-year "multimodal" course of study offering either general or specialized training. The Ministry of Education supervises the National Council on Technical Education and the National Administration of Middle and Higher Education. In 1995 public expenditure on education totaled 3.6% of GDP.
In 1997 there were 22,437 primary schools with 309,081 teachers and 5,153,256 students enrolled. As of 1999, the pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 22 to 1. Since 1966, the national universities have been under the supervision of the Ministry of Education. Traditionally, university students have played an active role in campus policy, based in part on the concept of university autonomy established in the Córdoba reform movement of 1918. Student organizations have also been outspoken in national politics, denouncing the policies of the military government in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Argentina has 46 officially accredited universities with a total of 740,545 students. The largest is the University of Buenos Aires. All institutions of higher learning had a combined total enrollment of 1.7 million students as of the mid-1990s.
Private, foreign, and religious schools are permitted, but they must conform to a nationally prescribed pattern of teaching in the Spanish language.