Education and Study in South Africa

Expats who are taking their children to South Africa will want to consider the types of education institutes available in the country.

There are three types of schools in the country

  • Independent schools
  • Governing body funded public schools
  • Government schools

The general education and training is essential and this covers both primary and secondary education. Children who are in General education and training are categorised within grades from grade zero – nine.

  • Primary School: Grade 0-6
  • Grade 0 – 3 is the foundation phase and Grade 0 is for children from the age of four
  • Grade 1 – Essential education for children from ages 5-6
  • Grades 4-6 – Intermediate phase

Children in the foundation phase will cover education in literacy, numeracy and life skills. When they reach grade 4 they will then be taught reading, maths, writing and another language. They will also be introduced to subjects such as science, history and geography.

Secondary School: Grade 7-9 (senior phase)

Grades in the senior phase are separated into junior and senior phases. Education is completed at grade 9 but students can study further in their career choices and will go onto Grades 10 – 12

Children then will go on to secondary education where they get to gain more knowledge in subjects that will help with further education or going into a career.

Expats have the option to also send their child to private schools which offers outstanding education although it is quite expensive than public schools.

The Former model C schools (government funded) are funded by governing bodies of parents and former students. Most of the best schools are in this category, have high educational standards and the fees are similar to private schools.

On the other hand there are also government schools which are controlled by the local education departments.

Majority of the schools in South Africa teach in the English language but International schools teach in the language which is linked to the country’s the foreign nationals are from. Most expats do prefer to send their child to an international school or a private school and in some cases the company you may work for will cover school fees.

Children are usually given priority for registration in a public school if they live within the school area or have parents working in the school. As well as this, there must be spaces in the schools.

When registering your child into a South African school you must provide:

  • Birth certificate
  • Passport
  • Document showing immunisations
  • Study and temporary residence permit
  • Previous schools records
  • Registration fees

When searching for a school, you should find out if the school takes part in national and international examinations.

The school year for all schools start in January and finishes in December, however international schools will follow the same academic year as their home country which is usually August to June. Holidays are generally given between April – August but international schools follow the home countries holidays

Public Schools

The public schools in South Africa do vary in standards depending on what area you are living in and the government that is funding it. The authorities of the area must ensure that schools are capable of running the school well having the correct equipment. Some children may receive a low standard of education due to the financing from the government and less qualified teachers. This is another reason why parents send their child to a private school.

In the main cities, public schools have a high standard so expat parents do send their children there.

Private Schools

Majority of the expats moving to South Africa will enrol their child into a private school and these are generally based in the major cities.

The reason for this is that private schools have an outstanding reputation and also offer exams which are recognised in other countries. Those who go to these schools are offered positions in tertiary education abroad.  Along with this there are better qualified teachers, great facilities and extracurricular activities.

Some private schools offer British based education and other international schools are based in the big cities.

The hours of private schools for children are from 7.30am – 2.00, many children do opt to take part in after school activities from 2pm-4pm.

International Schools

Along with private schools there  are many international schools in the country  that accommodate students education abroad, they usually teach the same curriculum of the institution it is sponsored by or it teaches the International Baccalaureate or the Cambridge International examinations.

Many expats send their children to an international school because of the same curriculum, so if they were moving back to their home country the child won’t have problems adjusting.

International schools tend to have their own admissions criteria and documentation will need to be shown such as completed application form, proof of vaccinations, previous school records and a passport. As well as this those who are not citizens of the country will need to have a study visa and a temporary permit.

It is advised that when you look for an international school you do your research as some schools teach their curriculum in the native language of the host country following the local curriculum.

Home Schooling

Expat parents who don’t want to send their child to a public or private school have the option of home schooling their children. If this is the case you must send an application to the head of the local department of education to register your child. You also must follow the department guidelines to teach the lessons and coursework must be completed.


South Africa has many reputed universities and the three best ones are the University of Witwatersrand, University of Cape Town and The University of Stellenbosch.  The higher education institutes do offer undergraduate, doctoral and postgraduate degrees and there are many institutions to choose from. In addition to this there are many private colleges and universities around the country which may ask for higher fees.

The training is on a global level and subjects are taught in either Afrikaans or the English language.

Some of the universities will have additional requirements for enrolment and expats will need to research this by looking on the institutions websites. Basic requirements include – Birth certificate, proof of immunisations, study permit and temporary permit.

The costs for universities also vary depending on the institution and you can contact the institution directly to find this out.