The government has gradually taken over control of primary education from the missions. Education has been made compulsory by the government for children between the ages of 6 and 15 years. They go through seven years of primary education and five years of secondary education. In 1997, there were 17,594 students attending 86 primary schools, with 727 teachers. Student-to-teacher ratio stood at 24 to 1. In secondary schools, there were 215 staff and 4,403 students in that same year. Secondary school pupils take the New Zealand school certificate. The estimated adult literacy rate is 93%.
Higher education courses are available at the Kiribati Extension Center of the University of the South Pacific (Fiji) in Tarawa. Other post-secondary education is provided by scholarships for study abroad. The Tarawa Technical Institute offers instruction in technical and vocational skills. The Marine Training Center offers 18-month instruction in deck, engine room, and catering work on foreign shipping lines; there are approximately 200 students enrolled in these programs.