Education in South Africa

South Africa has 12.3-million learners, some 386 600 teachers and 26 292 schools, including 1 098 registered independent or private schools. Of all schools, roughly 6 000 are high schools (grade 7 to grade 12) and the rest primary (grade 0 to grade 6).

In government-funded public schools, the average ratio of scholars (known as “learners” in terms of the country’s outcomes-based education system) to teachers (“educators”) is 32.6 to one, while private schools generally have one teacher for every 17.5 scholars.

The national Department of Education is responsible for education across the country as a whole, while each of the nine provinces has its own education department.

The central government provides a national framework for school policy, but administrative responsibility lies with the provinces. Power is further devolved to grassroots level via elected school governing bodies, which have a significant say in the running of their schools.

The national Department of Education is responsible for higher education. Private schools and higher education institutions have a fair amount of autonomy, but are expected to fall in line with certain government non-negotiables – no child may be excluded from a school on grounds of his or her race or religion, for example.

Three bands of education

South Africa’s National Qualifications Framework (NQF) recognises three broad bands of education: General Education and Training, Further Education and Training, and Higher Education and Training.

School life spans 13 years or grades, from grade 0, otherwise known as grade R or “reception year”, through to grade 12 or “matric” – the year of matriculation. General Education and Training runs from grade 0 to grade 9. Under the South African Schools Act of 1996, education is compulsory for all South Africans from age 7 (grade 1) to age 15, or the completion of grade 9. General Education and Training also includes Adult Basic Education and Training.

Further Education and Training takes place from grades 10 to 12, and also includes career-oriented education and training offered in other Further Education and Training institutions – technical colleges, community colleges and private colleges. Diplomas and certificates are qualifications recognised at this level.

Source: Department of education,,,,,,,,


1 thought on “Education in South Africa

  1. This article gives the basic facts regarding the schooling system in South Africa Perhaps a follow-up article is needed listing statistics on whether the education system is best serving South African learners.
    I represent an organisation called siyaJabula siyaKhula which is an NPO dedicated to improving maths and english levels amongst learners. We have been conducting assessments amongst learners in response to the2008 National Education Survey. The results of this survey show that the entire generation of 12.2 million learners are not able to access the work being presented to them in class. We at siyaJabula siyaKhula are developing interventions to rebuild the foundations of the education process. The time to act is now, and it is up to us all to act.

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