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
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.
Levels of education in South Africa
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.
The matric pass rate, which was as low as 40% in the late 1990s, continues to improve each year, reaching 68.3% in 2005.
Higher Education and Training, or tertiary education, includes education for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, certificates and diplomas, up to the level of the doctoral degree.
A matric endorsement is required for the study of university degrees, with a minimum of three subjects passed at the higher, rather than standard, grade, although some universities set additional academic requirements. A standard school-leaving South African senior certificate is sufficient for technical qualifications and diplomas.
South Africa has a vibrant higher education sector, with more than a million students enrolled in the country's 24 state-funded tertiary institutions: 11 universities, five universities of technology, and six comprehensive institutions.
These have recently been integrated, with the country's former 36 universities and "technikons" being amalgamated into larger tertiary institutions. Higher education is also offered at hundreds of private institutions, which are registered with the Department of Education to confer specific degrees and diplomas.
Many of South Africa's universities are world-class academic institutions, at the cutting edge of research in certain spheres. Although subsidised by the state, the universities are autonomous, reporting to their own councils rather than government.
Spending and challenges
More money is always needed to address the huge backlogs left by 40 years of apartheid education. Under that system, white South African children received a quality schooling virtually for free, while their black counterparts had only "Bantu education".
Education was viewed as a part of the overall apartheid system, which included the "homelands", urban restrictions, pass laws and job reservation. The role of black Africans was as labourers or servants only. As HF Verwoerd, the architect of the Bantu Education Act of 1953, conceived it: "There is no place for [the African] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour. It is of no avail for him to receive a training which has as its aim, absorption in the European community."
Although today's government is working to rectify the imbalances in education, the apartheid legacy remains. The greatest challenges lie in the poorer, rural provinces like the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Schools are generally better resourced in the more affluent provinces such as Gauteng and the Western Cape.
Illiteracy rates are high at around 24% of adults over 15 years old (6- to 8-million adults are not functionally literate), teachers in township schools are poorly trained, and the matric pass rate remains low.
While 65% of whites over 20 years old and 40% of Indians have a high school or higher qualification, this figure is only 14% among blacks and 17% among the coloured population.
The government is in particular targeting education for the poorest of the poor, with two notable programmes. One is fee-free schools, institutions that receive all their required funding from the state and so do not have to charge school fees. These have been carefully identified in the country's most poverty-stricken areas, and will make up 40% of all schools in 2007.
The other is the National Schools Nutrition Programme, which feeds 1.6-million schoolchildren every day, including all those attending primary schools in 13 rural and eight urban poverty nodes. Under the programme, the Department of Education has also established 1 924 school gardens with the support of the Department of Agriculture, local government structures and a number of NGOs.
Other priorities include early childhood development, HIV-Aids awareness programmes in schools, and adult basic education and training.
A mix of public and private Like so much else in South Africa, our education system is characterised by diversity: schools and universities vary greatly in terms of quality, financial resources, ethos and size. Top-quality schools and universities are to be found in both the state and the private education sector.
Most institutions fall under the auspices of the state, but due to an emphasis on local or community-based governance, and a strong and growing private school and higher education sector, the educational landscape is colourful.
Most state schools are state-aided to some extent: the government provides the minimum, and parents contribute to basics and extras in the form of school fees. Fees vary considerably, depending on factors such as class size, facilities and the quality of teaching offered.
Although private colleges and universities are a more recent phenomenon, South Africa has had private for centuries. There are around 1 098 registered private schools, catering for some 340 000 students - 2.8% of the total schooling population.
Many private schools chart a path of excellence, adopting cutting-edge trends, or offering solid, religious-based education since their origins as mission schools. But there are many outstanding state-aided schools, on a par with some of the top private institutions.
The Registration and Regulation of Independent Schools in Eastern Cape
Read, understand and make informed decisions about enrolment at Independent Schools Information Booklet for Primary and Secondary Phase Learners.
General Information on Independent Schools
What are Independent Schools?
Independent schools are private schools that are registered with the Department of Education for offering basic education programmes in terms of the South African Schools Act (SASA), 1996; Eastern Cape Schools Act, 1999 (ACT No 1 of 1999: Provincial Gazette No 766, 2001) regulating independent schools as well as the National Norms and Standards for School Funding, 2003 as amended, (this includes Government Gazette No 29179, 2006).
The Independent schools have their right of establishment enshrined in the Constitution of the republic of South Africa, , Section 29(3) which states that:
- Do not discriminate directly or indirectly on the basis of race;
- Are registered with the state;
- Maintain standards that are not inferior to standards at comparable public educational institutions
How is an independent school different from a public school?
These schools have certain features or rights which makes them different from public schools; both in the way they are legally sanctioned and the way they operate. These include the following:
They follow their own distinctive missions ( including particular ethos, faith or philosophy values);
What does registration as an independent school mean?
The Department of Education has the responsibility to evaluate schools for registration. It is only the Department of Education that can grant a school registration. Registration means the granting of legal authority to offer basic education. Registration thus enables an independent school to operate within the law. Before a school is registered, it must be assessed whether it has resources, capacity and expertise to offer acceptable standard of education. A registered school must maintain its registration by continuing to comply with the requirements of the Act and the Regulations. Any violation of the Act and Regulations will result in deregistered.
What does a department look for when it considers an application for registration from an independent school?
Quality Financial stability Legal operation Health and safety Qualifications
On registration, an independent school is issues with a letter and or certificate of registration by the Department of Education The certificate / letter must be visibly displayed on the school’s premises / principal’s office The school’s registration number / EMIS number, the phases / grades for which the institution is registered and approved site of delivery / physical address appear on the certificate Before enrolling and whenever in doubt, contact the Department to check if the school is registered with the Department Some schools have been registered for a specific period of time. Such schools are issued provisional registration certificates. Find out if the school is one of these. Study and understand the enrolment contract carefully before signing it.