Illiteracy is virtually nonexistent except among the aboriginals. Education is compulsory for children from the age of 6 to 15 (16 in Tasmania). Primary education generally begins at six years of age and lasts for six or seven years, depending on the state. Free education is provided in municipal kindergartens and in state primary, secondary, and technical schools. In 1997 primary schools enrolled 1,855,789 students in 8,123 schools, with 103,774 teachers. Secondary schools enrolled 2,367,692 students and employed approximately 104,000 teachers in the same year. Secondary education lasts for five or six years, four years of lower secondary, followed by another one or two years of upper secondary. There are also state-regulated private schools, which are attended by approximately one-third of Australian children. Correspondence courses and educational broadcasts are given for children living in the remote "outback" areas and unable to attend school because of distance or physical handicap. Oneteacher schools also satisfy these needs. Although most aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students use the regular school system, there are special programs to help them continue on to higher education.
Although each state controls its own system, education is fairly uniform throughout Australia. As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.8% of GDP. Education is the joint responsibility of the federal government and each state government and territory. The federal government directly controls schools in the Northern Territory and in the Australian Capital Territory.
Australia has approximately 20 universities in addition to more than 200 technical institutes. There is a state university in each capital city and each provincial area; a national postgraduate research institute in Carberra and a university of technology in Sydney with a branch at Newcastle. There are also a number of privately funded higher-education institutions including theological and teacher training colleges. Adult education includes both vocational and non-vocational courses. Most universities offer education programs for interested persons. In 1997, there were a total of 1,041,648 students and 26,407 teachers in higher-level educational institutes.