Eight years of schooling is compulsory starting at age eight, and free of charge. Since the 1950s, the MPR has claimed that the entire adult population is literate; in 1995, however, UNESCO estimated the illiteracy rate at 10.9% for males and 21.9% for females.
After declining for years, average national enrollment in primary schools was 78% in 1994, and probably substantially lower in rural areas. Many children in rural areas are withdrawn from school in order to work at home. An absence of heat in many rural schools is also a problem that may contribute to poor enrollment levels. More than 70% of students from rural areas reside in dormitories adjoining the schools. Attendance at vocational schools declined sharply from 23,236 in 1985 to 7,480 in 1994.
School enrollment rose again by 1999, when 90% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school, while 59% of those eligible attended secondary school. In 1997, there were 7,587 teachers and 234,193 pupils in primary schools. Student-toteacher ratio stood at 31 to 1. In the same year, secondary schools had 13,171 teachers and 195,408 pupils.
The Mongolian State University, in Ulaanbaatar, was founded in 1942 and includes faculties in the social sciences, trade, and philology, as well as in science and technology. In 1998 all institutions of higher learning had a combined enrollment of 50,961, with 3,331 teachers.
The 1991 Education Law introduced a number of changes in the system. The traditional Mongolian script was to be introduced from the first grade, and teaching of English in all schools was made compulsory. Non-formal education offered by private institutions was also given due importance and recognition. While higher and professional education is not free, tuition fees for poor students are subsidized by the government. As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at6.2% of GDP.