The Republic of South Africa is located on the southern tip of the African continent. It is bordered by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, the Indian Ocean and South Atlantic Ocean. The population of South Africa is 43,786,115 and the literacy rate is 86.4%. The language of South Africa is predominately a mixture of African dialects, though English is predominantly used in business, politics, international relations, and education, while more than eight languages are spoken among the many diverse groups in South Africa.
South Africa has some of the oldest archaeological sites in the world. Bartolomeu Dias of Portugal was the first European to arrive in present-day South Africa. Portuguese seafarers pioneering the route to India were regular visitors to the South African coast during the early 1500s. In 1652, the Dutch East India Company established a settlement at Cape Town to provision passing ships. Europeans began claiming lands and exploiting indigenous people for labor. Labor was imported from Asia as well. Diseases such as smallpox, introduced by the Europeans, nearly decimated the Khoisan people, the dominant native tribal culture.
In the late 1700s the Khoisan offered more determined resistance to colonial encroachment, as did Bantu-speaking chiefdoms. A century of intermittent warfare ensued. The Zulu kingdom emerged as a highly centralized state. Dutch settlers (Boers) continued to expand northward.
In 1795, the British occupied the Cape, controlling the sea route to the East. Many of the Dutch settlers (Boers) trekked north to found their own republics. The discovery of diamonds and gold spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers resisted British encroachments, but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902). The resulting Union of South Africa was governed by a white minority and operated under a policy of apartheid, the official separate development of the races. The 1990s brought an end to apartheid and ushered in black majority rule.
The Department of Basic Education is responsible for education policy nationwide, but each of the nine provinces has its own education department and considerable administrative autonomy, with locally elected school boards. The Department of Higher Education and Training oversees higher education.
Primary and Secondary Education
Primary education lasts for six years and is divided into junior primary and senior primary. At the end of the 3-year junior secondary, pupils are awarded the General Education and Training Certificate. Following junior secondary, students have the option of continuing in the academic senior secondary or in a vocational secondary program. Senior secondary is 3 years, and, upon completion, students sit for the Senior Certificate Examination. Vocational secondary is 3 years. Students sit for an examination at the end of each year and are awarded a National Technical Certificate. After year one, they are awarded the National Technical Certificate N1, the N2 Certificate at the end of the second year, and the N3 certificate at the end of the third year.
Higher education has been radically transformed since democracy was achieved in 1994, aiming to reverse race-based inequalities and inefficiencies, and become more responsive to social needs. The racial divide in education has been dismantled, and the number of public institutions cut from 36 to 23 through campus incorporations. Public higher education institutions enjoy a large degree of autonomy although they are heavily funded and influenced by the State. Quality assurance in education is primarily the responsibility of three state-run agencies, the Council of Higher Education, the Higher Education Quality Committee, and the South African Qualifications Authority.
The new system includes three types of institutions:
- traditional multi-field, research universities;
- universities of technology (formerly technikons);
- comprehensive schools that combine elements of traditional universities and universities of technology.
The distinction between "university" and "university of technology" is significant: "university" describes a traditional academic and research based institution; the "university of technology" more directly develops technical and vocational job skills. Both offer undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and credentials, but occasionally employ differing terminology and trajectories, described below.
The end of apartheid brought a rapid growth in private higher education, a proliferation of local providers as well as the entry of international institutions, primarily from Europe and the United States. Private schools must register with the national government and must meet prescribed standards and be accredited by the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) of the Council on Higher Education.
The publicly-funded "further education and training" (FET) sector is intended to meet the country's serious skills shortage, keep abreast with modern technology, and encourage continuing education. The FET system expects current enrollment of some 350,000 quickly to double, especially with women and black students. South Africa also has scores of private, for-profit FET schools.
Universities and universities of technology (technikons), as autonomous institutions, are subsidized by the Department of Education, and provide training at the post-Senior Certificate level. South African universities offer bachelor, bachelor honors, master and doctoral programs, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate diplomas. Coursework is structured in modules, with students registering in a unit/credit system. Admission to undergraduate programs at universities requires a Senior Certificate with Matriculation Endorsement/Exemption while universities of technology will accept students who have Senior Certification without the Matriculation Endorsement/Exemption.
Training of pre-primary and primary/basic school teachers has been transferred to the National Department of Education, and certain universities offer three-or four-year diploma courses qualifying holders to teach in primary schools. This also applies to some universities and universities of technology. The general admission requirement for teacher training diploma studies at any of these colleges is a Senior Certificate with pass marks in one of the two languages of instruction (i.e. English and Afrikaans).
Secondary school teachers must hold a bachelor's degree.