The modern Latvian educational system is based on the reforms introduced in 1991. Compulsory education lasts for nine years beginning at the age of seven. Primary education lasts four years, and is followed by eight years of secondary education in general schools, specialized high schools, and trade schools. In 1997, there were 146,653 students in 1,074 primary schools, with 10,833 teachers. In the same year, secondary schools enrolled 239,318 students and employed 29,852 teachers. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 15 to 1 in 1999. In the same year, 93% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school, while 84% of those eligible attended secondary school.
Entrance examinations are a prerequisite for admission into universities. Higher education is offered by both private and public institutions. The state offers free higher education in some areas of specialized study. Latvia has two major universities: the University of Latvia and the Riga Technical University. Higher education is also offered in various other academies. In 1997, there were 56,187 students enrolled in institutions of higher education; teaching staff totaled 4,486. Illiteracy in Latvia is very low. For the year 2000, adult illiteracy was estimated at 0.3% (males, 0.2%; females, 0.4%). As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 6.8% of GDP.