Adult illiteracy for the year 2002 for males was 49%; females, 79%. This is the highest illiteracy rate in Asia. Education is free at all levels. Primary education lasts for six years and is theoretically compulsory for 6 years, but only 53% of boys and 5% of girls were enrolled in elementary school in 2002. Boys and girls are schooled separately. A teacher has on average 58 pupils in an elementary school classroom, but only 28 students in a secondary school classroom. Only 32% of the males and 11% of females graduating from elementary school continue into secondary education. Vocational training is provided in secondary schools and senior high schools, and six percent of students are enrolled in the vocational system. Secondary education lasts for another six years. Children are taught in their mother tongue, Dari (Persian) or Pashtu (Pashto), during the first three grades; the second official language is introduced in the fourth grade. Children are also taught Arabic so that they may be able to read the Koran (Qur'an). The school year extends from early March to November in the cold areas and from September to June in the warmer regions. The school-aged population in Afghanistan is 6,650,000.
In addition to the secular public education system, the traditional Islamic madrassa school system is functioning. At the madrassas, children study the Koran, the Hadith (Sayings of the Prophet Mohammad), and popular religious texts.
Under the Taliban regime, girls were not allowed to have education at all levels. All teachers have civil service status. The educational system is totally centralized by the state.
The University of Kabul, which is now coeducational, was founded in 1932. In 1962, a faculty of medicine was established at Jalalabad in Nangarhar Province; this faculty subsequently became the University of Nangarhar. By 2002 a total of 8 universities had been established in Afghanistan along with 9 pedagogical institutes. The number of Afghans enrolled in higher education was expected to double from 26,000 to 52,000 by 2003. An estimated one thousand women throughout Afghanistan participated in university entrance examinations in 2002.