The 1979 constitution made primary education the responsibility of the states and local councils. State and federal authorities have concurrent powers over post-primary education. The first six years of primary education were made compulsory in 1976. Recent years have seen a marked growth in educational facilities. Projected adult illiteracy rates for the year 2000 stand at 35.9% (males, 27.7%; females, 43.8%). As of 1995, public expenditure on education was 0.5% of GDP.
The advancement in education in the southern states, compared with the relative lag in the northern states, reflects the contribution of Christian missions to the Nigerian educational system. Teacher-training colleges are operated by missions or voluntary societies; their schools, however, are regulated and largely supported by the government. Primary education begins in the local language but introduces English in the third year. In 1994 there were 16,190,947 students in 38,649 primary schools, taught by 435,210 teachers. In secondary schools, 4,451,329 students were taught by 152,592 teachers. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was estimated at 37 to 1 in 1995.
There are 13 polytechnic colleges and four colleges of technology. A major obstacle to the further advancement of education in Nigeria is the shortage of qualified teachers; large numbers of foreigners are employed, particularly by the universities. In 1993–94, universities had 12,031 teaching staff and 207,982 pupils.