In 2003 Algeria’s literacy rate was 70 percent, subpar by international standards. The breakdown by gender was 79 percent for males and 61 percent for females. A lag persists for women despite progress since independence in 1962. Education consumes one-quarter of the national budget. Algeria’s education system faces the challenge of accommodating a sharp rise in the number of eligible children and young adults. Education is free and officially compulsory for Algerians aged 6–15, but actual enrollment falls far short of 100 percent. Enrollment drops off sharply from primary to secondary school. In fact, only about half the eligible population is enrolled in secondary school, which consists of two three-year cycles beginning at age 12. In addition, Algeria has 10 universities, seven university centers (centres universitaires), and several technical colleges. The primary language of school instruction is Arabic, but Berber-language instruction has been permitted since 2003, in part to ease reliance on foreign teachers but also in response to complaints about Arabization.