The right to education is enshrined in South Africa’s Bill of Rights, not only for children but also for adults. Formal education in South Africa is categorised according to three levels – General Education and Training (GET), Further Education and Training (FET) and Higher Education (HE) structures. South Africa has a single national education system, which is organised and managed by the national Department of Education and the nine provincial departments. Statutory bodies include the Council of Education Ministers, Heads of the Education Departments Committee, General and FET Quality Assurance Council, South African Qualifications Authority, Council on HE, South African Council for Educators, National Board for FET, Education Labour Relations Council and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Quality Improvement, Development, Support and Upliftment Programme (QIDS-UP)

QIDS-UP is a five-year special intervention programme that prioritises 15 000 primary schools serving the poorest communities. The focus of the programme is to improve school infrastructure, supply curriculum resources and teacher and school management support towards improving learning outcomes. The programme also seeks to address the impact of poverty in schools. Greater emphasis is placed on improving school infrastructure. In 2008/09, 1 000 schools in seven provinces were improved (renovations, water and fencing) at a cost of R76.5 million. During 2008, 11 000 schools received reading books, including reading books in indigenous languages for 2 200 schools. A manual on school self-evaluation and improvement to support school managers was delivered to schools in October 2008.


Schooling is compulsory between the ages of seven and 15. All learners are guaranteed access to quality learning. There are two types of schools: independent (private) and public. At public schools, parents vote on the level of school fees. Poor parents are given exemption or reductions.


By mid-2007, the South African public education system had 12.3 million learners, 387 000 educators and about 26 592 schools, including 400 special-needs schools and 1 000 registered private schools. Of all schools, 6 000 were secondary schools (grades 8 to 12) and the rest were primary (grades 1 to 7) schools. Learners attend school for 13 years. The first year of education, Grade R or reception year, and the last three years are not compulsory. Many primary schools offer Grade R, which can also be completed at nursery school. In 2008, Grade 12 learners wrote the first National Senior Certificate based on the new National Curriculum Statement (NCS). A number of 589 912 learners enrolled for the NCS examinations. The pass rate was 62.5%.

Curriculum development

The NCS aims to develop the full potential of all learners as citizens of a democratic South Africa. It seeks to create a lifelong learner who is confident and independent; literate, numerate and multiskilled; and compassionate, with a respect for the environment and the ability to participate in society as a critical and active citizen. The NCS is available in all 11 official languages and in Braille, in keeping with the Constitution, which grants parity of esteem to all languages.

It requires learners in grades 10 to 12 to do four compulsory subjects, namely two official languages, Mathematical Literacy or Mathematics and Life Orientation. In addition, learners must select three approved subjects. The NCS has been implemented incrementally.

Further Education and Training

South Africa has 50 multisite-campus FET colleges. Each new college operates under a single governing council appointed to oversee effective and accountable management across and within the various FET college campuses and sites. The recorded increase in student intake, the development of new programmes and increased participation in learnerships bear testimony to the potential for growth in this sector. The FET College Financial Aid Scheme has commenced for students at Level 2 of the National Certificate (Vocational) and was extended to students on levels 3 and 4 in 2008 and 2009 respectively. These bursaries are administered by the NSFAS on behalf of the Department of Education. The third and final year of recapitalisation of the FET colleges began in April 2008. Detailed plans from all 50 FET colleges for the expenditure of R795 million on infrastructure, equipment and human resources have been submitted and approved by Cabinet. Some R397.5 million was transferred to colleges in May 2008. FET provides learning and training from National Qualifications Framework (NQF) levels 2 to 4, or the equivalent of grades 10 to 12 in the school system, and a FET Certificate (FETC) in General Vocational and in Trade Occupational, on NQF levels 2 to 4 in FET colleges. The FETC replaced the existing Senior Certificate in 2008.

Higher Education transformation

According to a strategic plan for HE, enrolment at HE institutions will rise from 15% to 20% of school leavers within 15 years. Within five years, enrolments in the humanities will decline, while those in business and commerce, and science, engineering and technology (SET) will rise. In 2008/09, the Department of Education’s budget totalled R18.5 billion, of which R15.1 billion was transferred to HE institutions as block grants or earmarked funds (for the NSFAS, foundation programmes, infrastructure, or efficiency allocations). The National Plan for HE seeks to expand enrolment by setting a target of a 20% participation rate by 2015. It proposed a shift in the balance of enrolments to a ratio of 40%: 30%: 30% in the humanities: business and commerce: SET, respectively, over the period 2001 to 2010. The HE landscape consists of the following institutions:

  • University of the Witwatersrand
  • University of Cape Town
  • University of Stellenbosch
  • Rhodes University
  • University of the Western Cape (which incorporated the Dental Faculty of Stellenbosch University)
  • University of Zululand
  • University of Venda
  • University of the Free State (which incorporated the QwaQwa Campus of the University of the North and the Bloemfontein Campus of Vista)
  • North West University (which incorporated the Potchefstroom University for Christian HE and Vista Sebokeng Campus)
  • University of Pretoria (which retained its name after incorporating the Mamelodi Campus of Vista University)
  • University of South Africa (which retained its name after merging with the Vista University Distance Education Campus and Technikon SA)
  • Tshwane University of Technology (from the merger of the Pretoria, North West and Northern Gauteng technikons)
  • Durban Institute of Technology (from the merger of Natal Technikon and Technikon ML Sultan)
  • Central University of Technology (formerly Technikon Free State)
  • Magosuthu Technikon
  • University of Johannesburg (from the merger of the Rand Afrikaans University with Technikon Witwatersrand, which incorporated the Soweto and East Rand campuses of Vista University)
  • University of Limpopo (from the merger of the Medical University of South Africa and the University of the North)
  • Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (from the merger of the University of Port Elizabeth, Port Elizabeth Technikon and Port Elizabeth Campus of Vista)
  • University of Fort Hare (which incorporated the East London Campus of Rhodes University)
  • Cape Peninsula University of Technology (from the merger of the Cape Technikon and Peninsula Technikon)
  • Vaal University of Technology (formerly Vaal Triangle Technikon)
  • Walter Sisulu University for Technology and Science (from the merger of the University of Transkei, Border Technikon and Eastern Cape Technikon)
  • National Institute for HE, Northern Cape
  • National Institute for HE, Mpumalanga
  • Karen

    What opportunities for further study/skills are there for kids with just a Grade 9 or less?

  • Asuzujoey

    i would like to know where to report the teachers that is raisist and telling the kids that black father + white mother = stupit child please this teacher is very very ugely with my child my email if anyone can help me i will appresihate it .Thank you GOD BLESS

  • Patricksifiso


  • parental control software

    Education is very important nowadays than ever before, with education and knowledge people able to become progressive and creative. However, knowledge had give people so many idea and likes, indeed some people used their knowledge to fool others and frauds are one of those; so I guess we should be very careful and wise in every ways in life.

  • E-learning

    Oh nice, thanks
    for your information!

  • Damelin Correspondence College

    Distance learning via an accredited higher education institution is a more cost effective and convenient way to study in Africa. Being able to learn from home eases the inconvenience of travelling to classes at fixed times and students are also able to earn income will they study outside of working hours at home.

  • Lucyngwenya

    hi Iwould like to get more info with regards t the learnerships my email address is thanks


    i want to enroll for agricultural studies in any college but i do not knw whr to start lookig.. HELP

  • common circle education

    This allows students to see through them more efficient and effective way to win their university degree. The information is really informative.

  • Fhoosain

    Can you pleases forward the email address of the depertment that issue the certificates.My son passed his NQF4 in electrical engineering at the College of Cape Town, Pinelands,WC but he is still awaiting his original certificate.I am extremely disappointed in your admin.

  • kel

    HI. how can i study biology through correspondance ?

  • Sally Evans

    Life orientation is a subject offered in so many schools, yet many Universities, including Universtiy of Kwa-Zulu Natal, do not recognise it in terms of APS for entrance.  How can this be addressed?

  • Vmthebe

    hi im mosima thebe also studing at the university of limpopo, i would realy like to help you out in this difficult situation that you are in. you can contact me on this details or 0781897623/0763233577

  • Reuben van Heerden

    I am let I say a unqualified teacher.Complete my studies in 1994,but did not had a diploma because I did not pass my billingaul exam.I want to complete it but dont know where to start so that I can recieve my diploma. Anyone who can help me with info

  • Alida Kieser

    Life Orientation is compulsory for ALL learners in SA – it will never count for APS.  Learners need to make sure they choose the right subjects in terms of APS for entrance.  

  • Alida Kieser

    Your son should get his certificate from the College where he studied and was registered.  They have to give it to you.

  • Alida Kieser

    Contact your nearest Damelin for advice.  It is always the best if these children get their senior certificates, even if they have to study part-time or correspondence.

  • Cynthia Victoria

    I would like my son to continue online with South African education,i am living overseas not because of choice,i would love to get some advice as to how to go about applying,i would appreciate any help i could get,thank you.

  • Cynthia Victoria

    i forgot to mention that my son is in the fourth grade,thank you.

  • Mbalenhle

    What I don’t understand about our education system is that they want us to Get a metric and go to university yet they set the pass mark for high school so low, I mean 30% how will u get into a university with a 30% to your name like really?When you take a look at all high education initiations owned by government they all want this 50% which we don’t know about because the bar was Sit so low for us in the first places and the people who do get in are Faced wit a number of Challenges because they don’t know this 50% it a really big jump from 30% that why university dope out are so high.The people who came up wit this Wonderful education system need to go back to the draw Board and rethink this system

  • Mbalenhle

    I dnt know if u have noticed but they also Require you to pass life orientation wit a 60% which I dnt understand as well because they dnt Even take it into Account. I agree this issue need to be addressed