The rate of adult illiteracy has been in decline. For the year 2000, adult illiteracy rates were estimated at 4.4% (males, 2.8%; females, 6.0%), a drop from an overall adult illiteracy rate of6.2% in 1995. Compulsory education provisions, first introduced in 1921, call for universal school attendance starting at age seven through the fourth year of primary school or through age 15. In 1998 primary schools enrolled 5,927,902 students. Secondary schools in the same year enrolled 4,097,331 students. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 21 to 1 in 1999. In the same year, 81% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school, while 55% of those eligible attended secondary school. Both teacher training and technical and vocational training (especially in agriculture) have been stressed in recent development plans. As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.7% of GDP.
In 1998, about 1,522,142 students were enrolled in higher education programs. In Bangkok, Chulalongkorn University (founded 1917) is Thailand's most eminent university. Also in Bangkok are the University of Thammasart (founded 1933), specializing in social and political sciences, and Kasetsart University (founded 1943) specializing in agriculture. Newer universities established in provincial areas include Chiang Mai University (founded in 1964), Khon Kaen University (founded in the northeast in 1966), and Prince of Songkhla University (founded in 1968). King Mongkut's Institute of Technology was formed in 1971 through the amalgamation of three institutes, and eight colleges of education were combined into Sri Nakharinwirot University in Bangkok in 1974. A correspondence school, the University of Ramkhamhaeng, opened in Bangkok in 1974 and the Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University began operations in 1978. In total there are 16 state universities in addition to 26 privately run colleges. There are also a large number of teacher training colleges.