Education in Algeria is free and officially compulsory for Algerians up to age 16, but actual enrollment falls far short of 100 percent. Enrollment drops off sharply from primary to secondary school. 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: 34 Universities, 13 University Centers, 21 National Superior Institute, 8 Preparatory Institutes.
The primary language of school instruction is Arabic, but Berber instruction has been permitted since 2003, in part to ease reliance on foreign teachers but also in response to complaints about Arabization. Due to Algeria's French colonial past, French is the first foreign language taught in all schools and is often the medium of instruction in post-secondary programs as well as private schools. Most educated Algerians are in turn bilingual in both Arabic and French.
As of 2008, Algeria's literacy rate is 69–70 percent, higher than those of Morocco and Egypt but subpar by international standards. The breakdown by gender is 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 faces a shortage of teachers as a result of the doubling in the number of eligible children and young adults in the last 12 years.