The adult illiteracy rate for the year 2000 was estimated at 1.5% (males, 1.0%; females, 1.9%), among the lowest in South America. Although educational standards are high, educational development has suffered in recent years from shortages of teachers and materials. School attendance is free and compulsory for eight years for children between the ages of 5 and 14. All schools in Guyana are public, as church and private schools were taken over by the government in 1976. While primary education lasts for six years, secondary education lasts five years. In 1997, there were 420 schools at the primary level with 102,000 students and 3,461 teachers. Also in 1997, secondary schools had 62,043 students and approximately 2,200 teachers. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 27 to 1 in 1999. In the same year, 98% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school. As of 1995, public expenditure on education was estimated at 3.7% of GDP.
The first students completed the one-year course at the Government Training College for Teachers in 1960. Teachers also are trained in the UK and at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. The University of Guyana was established in 1963, and awarded its first degrees in 1967. The university has faculties in agriculture, the arts, health sciences, social sciences, education, and technology. The Kuru Kuru Cooperative College was established in 1970 to equip the Guyanese people both technically and philosophically for cooperative socialism and nation building. There were 8,965 students enrolled at universities and all higher-level institutions in 1997.