For the year 2000, adult illiteracy was estimated at 1.5% (males, 1.1%; females, 1.9%). Education is free and compulsory for eight years (for children between the ages of 6 and 14). In the 1997 academic year, there were 2,810,158 students enrolled in elementary schools. An additional 4,602,243 students were enrolled in secondary schools in the same year. In 1999, 99.7% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school, while 88% of those eligible attended secondary school. In the same year, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.7% of GDP.
Higher educational institutes had a total enrollment of 1,892,542 students in 1997. There are 41 state universities and 15 other universities, colleges, and higher learning institutes, including the University of Bologna (founded in the 11th century), the oldest in Italy and the University of Rome, which is the country's largest.