Under the Pol Pot regime, education was virtually abolished, as all children were sent to work in the fields; education was limited to political instruction. Most of the educated class had been killed by 1979. According to PRK sources, only 50 of 725 university instructors and 307 of 2,300 secondary-school teachers survived the Pol Pot era.
Currently, the educational system is being rebuilt and is recovering. As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 5.5% of GDP. Adult illiteracy was estimated at 31.5% (males, 20%; females, 43%) in 2000. The number of teachers at the primary school level increased from 30,316 in 1980 to 43,282 in 1998, while the number of students increased from 1,328,053 to 2,011,772. At the secondary level, there were 19,135 teachers and 191,135 students in 1998. As of 1999, 89% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school, while 16% of those eligible attended secondary school. In the same year, the pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 50 to 1. A total of 8,901 students were enrolled in post-secondary education in 1998, with 1,001 teachers.
All schooling is public, and six years of primary education (ages 6–12) is compulsory. Following this, children may go through six years of secondary education, of which only the first three are compulsory. Most students continue their higher education at foreign universities.