The illiteracy rate has decreased since 1996 from 39.4 to 25.9 percent in 2013. The adult literacy rate as of July 2014 was estimated at 73.9%.
The illiteracy rate is highest among those over 60 years of age being estimated at around 64.9%, while illiteracy among youth between 15 and 24 years of age was listed at 8.6 percent.
A European-style education system was first introduced in Egypt by the Ottomans in the early 19th century to nurture a class of loyal bureaucrats and army officers.
Under British occupation investment in education was curbed drastically, and secular public schools, which had previously been free, began to charge fees.
In the 1950s, President Nasser phased in free education for all Egyptians. The Egyptian curriculum influenced other Arab education systems, which often employed Egyptian-trained teachers.
Demand soon outstripped the level of available state resources, causing the quality of public education to deteriorate. Today this trend has culminated in poor teacher–student ratios (often around one to fifty) and persistent gender inequality.
Basic education, which includes six years of primary and three years of preparatory school, is a right for Egyptian children from the age of six. After grade 9, students are tracked into one of two strands of secondary education: general or technical schools.
General secondary education prepares students for further education, and graduates of this track normally join higher education institutes based on the results of the Thanaweya Amma, the leaving exam.
Technical secondary education has two strands, one lasting three years and a more advanced education lasting five. Graduates of these schools may have access to higher education based on their results on the final exam, but this is generally uncommon.
Cairo University is ranked as 401–500 according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities (Shanghai Ranking) and 551–600 according to QS World University Rankings.
American University in Cairo is ranked as 360 according to QS World University Rankings and Al-Azhar University, Alexandria University and Ain Shams University fall in the 701+ range. Egypt is currently opening new research institutes for the aim of modernising research in the nation, the most recent example of which is Zewail City of Science and Technology.