Public education is free in Egypt. The first six grades of primary school are compulsory. Some children continue for three years of intermediate school. Secondary education is either general or technical. This means students study either academic or industrial subjects. Fee-paying private schools are gaining in popularity due to their higher standard of education. Their students may be taught Arabic, French, English and German.
Entry into the 14 public universities is extremely competitive. Public examinations, set by the government, are a prerequisite for entry into university. Institutes and colleges offer specialty training in acting, dance and film production. Despite government efforts to ensure high educational standards in public schools, a growing population has led to increased class sizes of 60 to 80 students.
From the elementary level through the university level, overcrowding and lack of funds create problems in the educational system. There is also a shortage of school buildings, especially in the rural areas.
Literacy is low in rural areas and about 45% of Egypt's population cannot read or write. The government is working constantly to improve the quality and availability of education, particularly in rural areas.