Illiteracy has been decreasing steadily. The government claims that literacy is complete, but for the year 2000 Western sources estimate adult illiteracy rates at 1.5% (male, 0.9%; female, 2.0%). Education is free and compulsory for eight years between the ages of 7 and 16. As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 3.4% of GDP.
As of 1995, 95% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school, while 86% of those eligible attended secondary school. In 1997 there were 3,170 primary level schools with 25,860 teachers and 431,790 students. Student-to-teacher ratio stood at 17 to 1. At the secondary level in the same year, there were 67,088 teachers and 733,362 students.
There are over 30 higher education institutions, including four universities. The most important is the University of Sofia, founded in 1888. The others include the University of Plovdiv (founded 1961), the University of Veliko Tarnovo (founded 1971), and the American University in Bulgaria (founded 1991). All higher level institutions had a total of 262,757 students and 26,303 teaching staff in 1997.