At the end of the 1990s, half of the adult population was
not literate or literate and school education was of poor
quality. The violence following the 1999 referendum
destroyed almost all schools and most teachers and
administrators disappeared. In the reconstruction, the
school system was a high priority and so has it been during
the first ten years of independent East Timor. In 2007, a
decision was made on nine years of compulsory and free
education. In the state budget in 2009, 15.5% of the
expenditure went to education.
In 2009, 77% of girls and 70% of boys attended elementary
school. However, many quit after a few years, especially in
the countryside. After six years, just over half of all
children in the lower, three-year secondary school started.
Then follows a three-year, higher secondary school. The
language of instruction is tetum for the first three years
and is then widely used in Portuguese. Most schools are
state-run, but mainly at the upper secondary level there are
also private schools, such as run by the Catholic Church.
18% of young men and 13% of young women are enrolled in
post-secondary education, most of them at the National
University of Dili. A number of smaller colleges are also
available. In addition, there are state scholarships for
higher studies abroad.
In 2007, UNESCO rated the reading and writing skills
among the adult population (over 15 years) to 51%, but in
the 2010 census it emerged that 79% of the adults were