Education Structure of South Africa

School Education encompasses primary and secondary education. Primary education lasts for 6 years and is split up into 3 phases- Fundation, Intermediate and Senior phase. After completion of the primary education, students are awarded the General Education and Training Certificate. After completing the secondary education, students are awarded Senior Certificate. In South Africa, compulsory education is of 9 years, starting at the age of 7 and goes on till the age of 15, followed by non-compulsory further education and training (FET). 

Higher education system comprises of Traditional Universities, Universities of Technology and a comprehensive Universities. The Higher Education Institutions in South Africa provide Bachelor, Honors, Master and Doctorate Degrees, Undergraduate and Postgraduate Diplomas and Certificates. Coursework is arranged in modules, with pupils registering in a unit/credit system. 

Duration of Compulsory Education in South Africa

  • Entry Age: 6
  • Exit Age: 15

Structure of South African Education 

Pre-Primary Education

School Type: Pre-Primary Schools. Just a minority of kids attend pre-primary schools as there is little provision by provinces, especially for kids below the age of 3 years. Most of the pre-primary schools in South Africa are subjugated by the private sector.

Age: 0-5 years 

General Education and Training (GET)

The General Education and Training comprises of Grades 0-9 and is compulsory to attend.
  • School Type offering this Level of Education: Primary School
  • Duration: 6 years
  • Age Group: 6- 12 years 
  • National Qualification Framework: Level 1
  • Certificate Awarded: General Education and Training Certificate
  • Number of Phases: 3
The phases at GET level are-

Foundation Phase- Junior Primary Schools offer foundation phase education and is compulsory. Pupils learn to read, write, and calculate in their own language and begin to learn another.
  • Age: 6-9 years 
  • Grade: Grade 0 or 'Reception' to Grade 3
Intermediate Phase- Senior Primary Schools teach intermediate phase education. Pupils learn to develop their practical skills and deepen the knowledge gained at the foundation phase. They also start learning History, Geography, and General Science.
  • Age: 9-12 years 
  • Grades: 4-6
Senior Phase- Secondary Schools operate at this phase. The focus shifts to art, mathematics, technology, languages, natural and social sciences, At the end of this phase, students get hold of the ‘General Education and Training Certificate’.  
  • Age: 12-15 years 
  • Grades: 7-9

Further Education and Training (FET)

  • School Type: Senior Secondary Schools
  • Duration: 3
  • Age: 15-18
  • Grades: 10-12
  • Credential Awarded: Senior Certificate 
  • National Qualification Framework: Level 2-4

Students have to take a public exam in as a minimum of six subjects to get hold of a Senior Certificate. 

Higher Education and Training

The higher education is imparted by the Universities of Technology or Technikons, traditional universities and comprehensive universities. 
  • Age: 18-21
  • National Qualification Framework: Level 5-8
  • Credentials: Bachelor Degree, Honors Degree, Master Degree, Doctorate Degree, Diploma and Certificates (Depending upon the Programme)
Universities offer 3-year long bachelor degrees in addition to other longer courses for vocational training, master and doctorate programmes. Programmes at Technikons diverge from 1-4 years and are more professional than those at universities. Both entail for Senior Certificates but higher educational achievement is compulsory for an admission at university.
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