Primary and secondary school are free and mandatory from the age of 6 to 15. Although Kazakhstan once had a strong educational system, economic problems have affected the country's ability to maintain its programs and standards.

Primary school begins at age 6 and secondary school is for students between 11 and 18. Classes are large, with 40 or more children. Many pupils attend school for half-days, either from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 1 to 5 p.m. During a short snack break, young pupils may have a roll and a glass of milk, sometimes provided by the school.

After primary school, students may do two years of secondary school, followed by a vocational program, or five years of secondary school, followed by further education at a postsecondary institution. Kazakhstan has two universities, as well as polytechnical institutes that offer training in science and engineering, business academies, and conservatories for arts training.

Parents can choose whether their children will learn in Kazakh or Russian. The government is opening more Kazakh schools as the country slowly switches to that language. Some families send their children to religious schools called madressahs, where they are taught about Islam.

  Did you know?
Because parts of the country are very sparsely populated, Kazakhstan offers several distance education programs to allow students to continue their studies, even if they live far away from a school.
Now that Kazakhstan has become independent, its teachers face special challenges. Most were educated in Russian, but now schools need Kazakh-speaking instructors. Many textbooks from the Soviet era promoted Soviet political ideas and are no longer useful. Printing new textbooks is expensive and Kazakhstani texts are in short supply.
  Did you know?
Kazakhstan has several specialized sports schools that train promising athletes for national and international competitions.