The educational system is patterned on that of France, but changes are being introduced gradually to adapt the curriculum to local needs and traditions. The government gives high priority to education, especially the construction of rural schools. Education is free and compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. In 1996 there were 1,147 primary schools with 250,693 pupils and 4,943 teachers. At the secondary level, there were 80,552 pupils and 3,094 teachers. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 44 to 1 in 1999. There is also an adult literacy program. The adult illiteracy rate was estimated at 36.8% in 1995. Projected adult illiteracy rates for the year 2000 stand at 29.2% (males, 20.2%; females, 37.8%). About one-half of all schools are private or church-supported. As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 3.3% of GDP.
Omar Bongo University, at Libreville, includes faculties of law, sciences, and letters; teachers' training schools; and schools of law, engineering, forestry and hydraulics, administration, and management. There were 4,655 students at the university and other equivalent institutions in 1995.