The official language is Belarussian, which is written in the Cyrillic script. For the year 2000, the adult illiteracy rate was estimated at 0.6% (males, 0.3%; females, 0.6%). Education is compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 15. Secondary education lasts for five to seven years, beginning at age 12. The government is now putting more emphasis on replacing Russian with Belarussian. Approximately 97% of primary-school-age children are enrolled in school. In 1997, there were 625,000 students registered in primary schools and secondary-level schools had 1,064,700 students. In the same year there were 4,511 preschools, 4,820 general-education schools, 249 vocational and technical schools, and 151 state-run specialized secondary schools; altogether the public education system had about 200,000 teachers.
There are three universities in Belarus. The largest is the Belarussian State University, which is located in Minsk and was founded in 1921. Along with these universities, there are four polytechnical institutes and 19 educational institutes. All higher-level institutions had 328,746 students and 40,300 teaching staff in 1997.
As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 5.6% of GDP.