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Grading System, Language of Instruction and Academic Year in South Africa

South Africa has been divided into three bands- General Education and Training (GET), Further Education and Training (FET) and Higher Education and Training. The General Education and Training & Further Education and Training are provided by the primary and secondary schools respectively. Also, at the GET and FET levels of education, Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) is provided.

Grading System

In South Africa, the Secondary Schools use a grading scale of 1-7, while the higher education institutions make use of percentages form. The grading range can vary depending upon the major.

Grading Scales

Secondary Education

In South Africa, Students are required to achieve Grade D or better in order to gain admittance to the Undergraduate programme in South African Higher Education Institutions.

  1. Grade
  2. Scale
  3. US Grade
  • 7
  • 80.00-100.00
  • A
  • 6
  • 70.00-79.99
  • B
  • 5
  • 60.00-69.99
  • B
  • 4
  • 50.00-59.99
  • C
  • 3
  • 40.00-49.99
  • D
  • 2
  • 30.00-39.99
  • F
  • 1
  • 20.00-29.99
  • F

Higher Education

In South Africa, the minimum passing grade is 50%. In order to pass a subject, pupils are required to attain a sub-minimum of 40% in the exam.

  1. Scale
  2. Grade Description
  3. Division
  4. US Grade
  • 75.00-100.00
  • First Class
  • A
  • 70.00-74.99
  • Second Class
  • Division One
  • B
  • 60.00-69.99
  • Second Class
  • Division Two
  • B
  • 50.00-59.99
  • Third Class
  • C
  • 0.00-49.99
  • Fail
  • F


Language of Instruction

There are 11 official languages in South Africa, but the language of instructions at the schools and universities in South Africa is either Afrikaans or English. Pupils who have gone to an English-Medium high school or university and have done well academically can be given a waiver from the English Proficiency test- TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language).

Academic Year

An academic year is the time period during which an educational institution provides classes. In South Africa, the academic year of School starts in January and ends in December, while that of Universities starts in early February and ends late November.

School Academic Year

The academic year in South Africa is about 200 school days in duration and begins in January and continues until December.
All public schools in South Africa follow a four-term school year as defined by the national Department of Education. Each term lasts for about 10-11 weeks. The terms are typically defined as follows-

First Term

The first term commences in mid-January and ends in either March or April, i.e Before Good Friday. Then are the Easter holidays of about 10 days.

Second Term

The second term commences in mid-April and continues until June. During the second term, falls the winter holidays which are 21 days long.

Third Term

The third term commences in mid-July and ends in September with September vacations, also known as spring holidays, which lasts for 10 days.

Fourth Term

The fourth term starts in early October and goes on until early December. Subsequently the term ends, falls the Christmas holidays or the December or summer vacations, which are generally 40 days long.  

The Private Schools in South Africa have a similar calendar, with little adjustment as per their academic and religious needs. A few of independent or private schools in South Africa follow a three-term year. The coastal schools academic year dates are somewhat dissimilar from the inland schools.

Universities Academic Year

The Universities in South Africa have 2 semesters each year-

The first semester commences in early February and continues until early June

The second semester begins in late July and continues until late November. 

Each semester comprises of twelve or thirteen teaching weeks, with a one-week short vacation in between, and followed by 3-4 weeks of examinations. The short vacation during the first semester generally occurs around the Easter weekend and in early September during the second semester.  
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