School system

From Preschool to High school

School system

In South Africa, parents can decide if they want their children to attend preschool. Primary education is compulsory, secondary education is optional.


Public preschools are provided by some of the provincial departments of education. They are aimed to children of up to 7 years of age. Preschool is split up into two grades: a Pre-Grade R for children of up to 4 years of age, and a Grade R for 5 and 6 year-olds. In both grades children attend language, mathematics, life skills, technology, arts, and cultural classes.

Primary education (General Education and Training)

The junior primary phase of schooling lasts 3 years. During this period, children learn to read, write, calculate, and the basics of a second language.

During the 3 years of senior primary phase students learn mathematics, history, geography, and science. They also acquire reading and oral proficiency in both their first and second language.

Students have to attend one handy-craft skill class, such as needlework, woodwork, or art. School uniforms are compulsory, and the school's code of conduct must be followed.

School enrolment

In South Africa, children can attend any school as long as there are vacancies. Acceptance depends on the Feeder Zone System: those students whose parents live or work within the feeder zone - the area surrounding the school - are the first ones to be accepted. Other applicants are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Waiting lists may be opened if required.

In order to get children accepted to schools, parents must hand in:

  • The child's birth certificate or permanent/ temporary residence permit
  •  The child's immunisation card
  •  A transfer card or the last school report, if the child attended another school before

The school can reject a student's admission because of policies set by the school's governing body. However, they cannot reject a student because of the following reasons:

  •  If the parents did not pay school fees in previous schools
  •  If the parents do not subscribe to the school's mission statement
  •  If the parents refuse to sign a contract to not waive claims if the child is hurt at school
  •  If the parents applied late for admission
  •  If the parents cannot afford the uniform or books
  •  If the student is not a South African citizen
  •  If the student has problems with the language
  •  If the student is disabled
  •  If the student is HIV positive or pregnant
  •  For racial , cultural, or religious differences

If parents have trouble getting their children accepted to school, they can request the reasons of rejection and contact the Department of Education (toll-free hotline: 0800 202 933), the provincial education department, or the Education Rights Project.

Secondary education (Further Education and Training)

Secondary education in South Africa runs from grade 10 to 12 in the school system, levels 2 to 4 of the National Qualifications Framework, or the National Certificate levels 1 to 3 in technical colleges.

After completing the 12th grade or the Senior Secondary Education, students take a written exam covering a minimum of six subjects to obtain the Senior Certificate.

Further reading

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