Six years of compulsory primary education have been in effect since 1978. An estimated 44% of adults were illiterate in 2000 (males, 34%; females, 54%). In 1996, 2,903,923 students attended 8,145 primary schools, with 145,455 teachers. Student-to-teacher ratio stood at 20 to 1. In that same year, 1,160,421 students attended secondary schools, with 62,296 teachers. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 21 to 1 in 1999. In the same year, 93% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school, while 33% of those eligible attended secondary school.
Primary schools provide a six-year course, at the end of which the student must pass an examination to be admitted to secondary school. The curriculum is based on Western patterns but also includes religious teaching. The language of instruction is Arabic. Secondary schools have a three-year intermediate course, followed by a two-year course in preparation for entrance to college. A national examination must be passed at its end. Secondary education for girls dates from 1929. Traditional Quranic schools are nearly extinct.
Education at all levels from primary to higher education is free, and no private schools are permitted to operate. There are seven universities in Iraq, four of them in Baghdad. The University of Baghdad is the most important higher education institution in the country. Other universities include Mosul, al-Mustansiriya, Basra, and as-Sulaymaniyah. In addition to these universities, there are 19 technical institutes throughout Iraq. In 1988, all higher-level institutions had 209,818 pupils and 11,072 instructors. Education in Iraq is under the control of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education and Research.