Before the Bosnian war of the early 1990s, the area covered by present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina had 641 primary and 243 secondary schools. By 1996, these totals had been reduced to 270 primary and 141 secondary schools. There were fewer than 200,000 primary pupils, taught by 8,000 teachers, and 65,500 secondary students, with 4,100 teachers.
Education is administered by the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports. Each of the country's ten cantons also has its own education ministry. Education at the elementary level is free and compulsory for eight years. At the secondary level, children have the option to take up general education (gymnasium), vocational, or technical. General secondary lasts for four years and qualifies the students for university education. In 2001 the government began a modernization program for primary and secondary education, covering curriculum, special needs education, in-service teacher training, and other areas.
There are four main universities: the University of Banja Luka (founded in 1975); the University of Mostar (founded in 1977); the University of Tuzla (founded in 1976); and the University of Sarajevo (founded in 1949), which offers programs in the social sciences, humanities, sciences, medicine, law, and engineering.