The adult illiteracy rate was estimated at 0.3% in 1995 (males, 0.2%; females, 0.4%). Before the Soviet Union established control over the region in the 1920s, few schools, mainly Muslim, existed. Education is now state-funded and compulsory from the age of 7 to 17 (10 years). Upon completion of the eighth grade, students are tested and then directed into technical, continuing, or discontinuing courses of study. The government reports 1,764 schools with enrollment of 850,000. In 1,400 of the schools, instruction is in the Turkmen language; in the remaining 364, Uzbek, Russian, Kazakh, and Karakalpak languages are used.
In 1990/1991, all higher-level institutions had 76,000 pupils enrolled. There are 14 institutions of higher learning, including one university at Ashgabat, the Turkmen State University (founded in 1950) with an enrollment of over 11,000 pupils. Turkmenistan also has 90 technical colleges. As of 1995, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.3% of GDP.