Learn from the experiences of other expats and make new friends in our disccussion forums and Facebook groups
The Expat Focus Guide to Moving Abroad contains everything you need to know when planning an international relocation available now, completely free
Insurance, FX and international movers
The Expat Focus podcast features interviews with expats living abroad and service providers meeting their needs subscribe today!
From our tax, investment and FX partners

South Africa - Education and Schools

South Africa has more than 27,000 schools accessible to over 12 million students. Of the 27,000 schools, only 1000 are private. During apartheid, black students only had access to limited education, also known as Bantu Education, while white students had access to quality schooling, which was practically free. Although the system was scrapped in 1994, the legacy remained. Currently, schools in rural areas have fewer resources than those in urban areas and big cities, which has led to high level of illiteracy among the adult population in South Africa. However, the South African government is working hard to improve the quality of the education in the country.

Education is mandatory for children aged 7 and above regardless of their religious beliefs, color, creed, or race. Children over the age of 7 have to go to school until they either finish their 9th school year or turn 15. Children also have the option of attending Grade O or Grade R. This is referred to as the reception year. The first grade begins at the age of 5 or six years.

South Africa has three main stages of education:

• General education and training: This is compulsory and usually includes kids between grades 0 and 9. Adult Education and Training is also included in this category.
• Further education and training: This category covers grade 10 to 12. It includes training at private, technical and community colleges. Qualifications recognized at this level are certificates and diplomas.
• Higher education and training: This level is also referred to as tertiary education. Certificates, diplomas, undergraduate, postgraduate degrees, and doctoral degrees are covered in this level. Home schooling is accepted in South Africa.

Schools in South Africa

There are three types of schools in South Africa: public private schools, public fee-free schools, and private schools. The quality of education in the aforementioned schools varies widely.

All public fee-free schools are funded by the government. Public fee-free schools are mainly found in the poorest areas where the National Schools Nutrition Program (NSNP) is also offered. The program feeds over 1.6 million children daily and has instituted about 2000 school gardens.

Public private schools are also funded by the government although they charge school fees. The fee paid is used mainly for basic tools like uniforms, books, and other things depending on the facilities, teaching quality and class size. Public private schools allow parents to apply for fee exemptions and reductions in some cases.

Independent private schools have been in existence for some time now and are preferred by a large number of students. Independent schools are privately owned. Other traditional private schools were founded by missionaries who are still funding them. Expatriate children can join international schools that follow similar curricula to their home countries.

School times and holidays

South African students go to school from Monday to Friday. Classes run from 8.00am to 2.30pm. Students are allowed to engage in after school activities or visit the local after care center after 2.30pm. The South African academic year begins in January and ends in December. The period is split up into four terms:

• The first academic term commences in Mid-January and ends in April. Students break for the Easter holiday, which normally lasts 10 days.
• The second term runs from mid-April to June. Students break for the winter holiday, which lasts 21 days.
• The third term begins in Mid-July and runs through to September. Students then break for the spring holiday, which lasts 10 days.
• The fourth term runs from October to December. Students break for the Christmas holidays, which lasts about 40 days.

The teaching system

The South African teaching system is known as Outcome Based Education (OBE).The system is designed to impart formal knowledge with day-to-day knowledge and requires students to carry out research and find information themselves. Students are asked to analyze and criticize the information collected on their own rather than taking up and repeating what they have been taught.

South Africa’s teaching system also offers computer-based education in some parts of the country. However, the South African government is working hard to implement this in poor communities too. South Africa allows parents to decide whether they want their children to attend preschool or not. While primary school is mandatory, secondary education is optional.


Public preschools are established by some of the provincial departments of education. Preschools are mainly for children of up to 7 years of age. There are two grades in preschool:

• Grade R for children who are 5 or 6 years old
• Pre-Grade R for children up to 4 years of age

Both grades teach culture, language, arts, mathematics, technology, and life skills classes.

Primary education (General Education and Training)

Junior primary class takes 3 years to complete. This stage will ensure that children learn to write, read, calculate, and master the basics of a second language. The subjects included in the 3 years of senior primary stage include mathematics, science, history, and geography. This stage also requires students to acquire oral and reading proficiency in their first and second languages. Students also go through handy-craft classes like woodwork, art, or needlework. Students must follow the school’s code of conduct and wear uniforms.

School enrolment

South Africa allows children to attend any school of their choice as long as there are vacancies. In some cases, the Feeder Zone System can determine acceptance. Students whose parents work or live within feeder zones (the areas near the school) are considered for admission first before children from other zones can be considered. Other applicants are considered on a first come first served basis.

For you to get your child accepted to a South African school, you will be required to provide:

• Your child’s immunization card
• Child’s birth certificate
• The last school report or a transfer card

It is important to know that a school can turn down a student’s application because of various reasons including policies set by the body that governs it.

However, you child cannot be rejected because of the following reasons:

• If the parents defaulted in paying school fees in previous schools
• If the parents delayed to apply for admission
• If the parents cannot buy the books or uniforms
• If the student is not a South African
• If the student is pregnant or HIV positive
• Because of cultural, racial or religious differences

Read more about this country

Copyright © 2019 Expat Focus. All Rights Reserved. Use of this website signifies your agreement to the Terms of Use/Privacy Policy. Comments are property of their posters.
Interactive software released under GNU GPL, Code Credits, Privacy Policy