Primary education is the first stage of compulsory education. As of 2014 there were around three million children enrolled in almost 17 thousand primary schools, with around 250.2 thousand teachers working in public primary schools.
Elementary education is followed by lower secondary education: in 2014, a total of 1.7 million pupils were enrolled in lower secondary schools. The region of Lombardy ranked first for number of public lower secondary schools in Italy.
According to Eurostat figures, almost 57 percent of Italians aged 25 and over had attained upper secondary or tertiary education in 2015, while the figure stands at 76.3 percent for the whole of the European Union. In 2016, around one third of the students chose to study at Liceo scientifico (scientific lyceum), lyceum dedicated to scientific studies.
Italy has a large and international network of public and state affiliated universities. As of 2016, the majority of students were registered in economics and statistics, followed by engineering. In the same year, the leading university in Italy by number of students was the Sapienza University of Rome. Italian universities are part of the Erasmus Programme, a European Union student exchange program established in 1987. In 2015, the University of Granada was the most chosen university in Spain by Italian Erasmus students.
The total public expenditure on education in Italy in 2011 amounted at 66.4 billion PPP (Purchasing Power Standard). In 2015, 1.38 percent of Italy's GDP was dedicated to research and development.