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Latest Country Updates
Apr 20, 2023

Fast-forward for project to support ‘agents of HE reform’ in South Africa

From 22 to 24 March, Higher Education Reform Experts – South Africa (HERESA) held a leadership workshop for top university managers to discuss pressing challenges in the sector and identify potential solutions, drawing on national and international case studies.

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Jun 27, 2022

KZN Education MEC questions officials over schools that scored below 40% in the 2021 grade 12 examinations

Department of Education officials in KwaZulu-Natal are in the firing line and have been asked to explain what went wrong with the schools that fared poorly in last year's grade 12 examinations.

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Jun 6, 2022

South Africa Independent Examinations Board gets green light to publish matric results

The Independent Examinations Board (IEB) will continue with the tradition of using media platforms, including newspapers, to publish the results of its matric candidates, as they had received permission to do so.

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Mar 9, 2022

Government looking at timetable and curriculum changes for schools in South Africa

The Department of Basic Education is holding a lekgotla this week to discuss how the country’s schooling sector will recover after two years of pandemic-related disruptions.

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Mar 1, 2022

South Africa is seeing a big move to online schools – with new rules incoming

Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga says her department is developing a new framework to help regulate the rise of online schools in South Africa.

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Feb 18, 2022

South Africa’s School Pass Rate Improves Amid Virus Disruption

South Africa’s school pass rate showed a slight improvement in 2021, the second year in which learning was disrupted by restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Nov 29, 2021

South Africa’s new school calendars

The Department of Basic Education has gazetted the proposed school calendar for the 2023 academic year for comment and confirmed the school calendar for the 2022 school year.

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Nov 2, 2021

Government is introducing a new school certificate for South Africa

The Department of Basic Education says it is currently working on the introduction of the General Education Certificate (GEC) for Grade 9 pupils.

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Oct 8, 2021

South Africa Matric exams to start on November 1 and end on December 7

The exam papers scheduled to be written on November 1 include English home language, first additional language and second additional language. According to the circular, the exams will start later than usual “to allow for maximum teaching and learning time” and will extend over six weeks.

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Aug 17, 2021

How level 4 lockdown affects schools in South Africa

Schools in South Africa will shut down due to rising Covid-19 cases, and they will resume after the winter holidays. School support programmes will continue for grades 11 and 12. Supplementary exams will also continue forward.

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Aug 4, 2021

South Africa matric exams were 'not compromised' despite papers being leaked

While the true extent of the 2020 matric examination leaks might never be known, officials investigating these irregularities are emphatic that the exams have not been compromised.

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May 14, 2021

Maths and physical science pass rates show a decline, even after leaked papers

The results of the two subjects that almost plunged the 2020 matric examinations into chaos have shown a decline in South Africa. The leaks led to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announcing that there would be a national rewrite of the two subjects to maintain the examinations’ integrity, which was the first time a national rewrite would take place.

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May 14, 2021

Leaked papers may lead to learners losing their matric certificates in South Africa

The results of learners implicated in the leak of the two papers in the 2020 matric examination and the results of those learners involved in “group copying” will be blocked while investigations continue.

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May 12, 2021

South Africa’s new 2021 school calendar will come at a big cost

Department of Education have narrowed the curriculum as part of a process known as ‘trimming’ which means that these students were not exposed to the full curriculum. However in matric, they will be examined on the full contents of Grades 10, 11 and 12.

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Apr 12, 2021

13 new subjects planned for schools in South Africa

South Africa published a new curriculum policy document introducing new subjects for the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS).

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Mar 31, 2021

Amid COVID-19 surge, South Africa delays reopening schools

Faced with a rapid resurgence of COVID-19 overwhelming the country’s hospitals and driven by a more infectious variant of the virus, South Africa has delayed reopening its schools.

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Feb 2, 2021

Matric Maths and Physical Science exams to be rewritten

South Africa Basic Education Minister announced that the matric examinations, the math paper 2 and the physical science paper 2, will have to be rewritten due to exam leaks.

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Jan 26, 2021

Department of Education to Investigate Matric Exam Leak in South Africa

South Africa’s Department of Basic Education (DBE) confirmed it will investigate circumstances around a leaked Mathematics Paper 2 “fully and thoroughly”. “The origins of the leak are not clear as yet but the matric candidates who had access to the question paper appear to be located in Limpopo and Gauteng provinces,” the Department of Education said in a statement.

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Sep 24, 2020

New 2021 start dates for South African schools and universities

Basic Education minister of South Africa announced that students will not be compromised by late release of Grade 12 results in 2021. Universities are expected to start their 2021 academic year in March or April next year.

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South Africa


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.

Post-Secondary Education

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:

  1. traditional multi-field, research universities;
  2. universities of technology (formerly technikons);
  3. 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.

Teacher Training

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.


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