For 2000, adult illiteracy rates were estimated at 3.7% (males, 3.7%; females, 3.6%). Primary level education is for five years and secondary education is in two stages: five years at the lower level and two years at the higher level. Education is not compulsory. There are three streams of Maldivian education: traditional religious schools ( makhtabs ), which teach the Koran (Qur'an), basic arithmetic, and the ability to read and write Divehi; modern Divehi-language primary schools; and modern English-language schools. Primary and secondary schooling is based on the British educational system. Distance educational courses and educational programs on the radio are also provided.
In 1998 there were 48,895 students enrolled in 228 primary schools, with 1,992 teachers. Student-to-teacher ratio stood at 25 to 1. In the same year, secondary schools had a total of 36,905 students. As of 1999, virtually 100% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school, while only 31% of those eligible attended secondary school. Maldivians must go abroad for higher education. In the 1990s, the government began making large investments in secondary, vocational, and post-secondary education. Currently the Science Education Center in Malé provides pre-University courses, and the Center may evolve into a university. As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 3.9 % of GDP.