Primary and secondary education
Primary and secondary education in South Africa
Primary education lastst 7 years. Secondary education lasts 6 years. Students can complete the following phases:
- lower primary education (foundation phase);
- upper primary education (intermediate phase);
- lower secondary education (senior phase); and
- upper secondary education (Further Education and Training, FET).
Primary education and lower secondary education are collectively called General Education and Training (GET).
Lower primary education
- : 4 years (grade 0-3). Grade 0 is also referred to as Reception year or grade R.
- Content: education in this phase focuses on basic skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic, and the development of language skills. From grade 3 onwards, it is mandatory to take another approved language in addition to their language of education. All 11 official languages may be taken as the home language, first additional language and second additional language. These terms indicate the various level gradations for languages in the South African education system.
Upper primary education
- Duration: 3 years (grade 4-6).
- Content: the focus in this phase is more on reading and speaking skills in the home language as well as in the second language. From grade 4 onwards, education is exclusively in English and Afrikaans. The pupils also study mathematics, history, geography, general sciences and handicrafts.
The official length of the full-time programme (not part-time) without study delay.
Lower secondary education
Lower secondary education lasts 3 years (grade 7-9) and is aimed at students aged 13-15. At the end of this phase, a pupil is no longer required to attend school.
Upper secondary education
Upper secondary education lasts 3 years (grade 10-12). Students aged 16 to 19 choose:
- general secondary education, which is concluded with exams for a National Senior Certificate (NSC); or
- vocational secondary education. Among other things, students can obtain the National Certificate. Because we rarely see vocational secondary education diplomas, we do not describe them on this web page.
National Senior Certificate (NSC)
General upper secondary education is concluded with exams for a National Senior Certificate (NSC).
- Duration: 3 years.
- Inhoud: 7 subjects. Students follow 4 compulsory subjects (2 languages, mathematics and life orientation) and choose 3 electives. They can choose the electives from a list of nationally approved subjects . The subject life orientation is a compulsory subject, but it does not count as part of the score.
- Function of the diploma: access to higher education.
- Diploma: a National Senior Certificate (NSC) with one of the following remarks:
- NSC with admission to Higher Certificate programmes;
- NSC with admission to (National) Diploma programmes;
- NSC with admission to bachelor's programmes.
See Secondary education documents for more information about these remarks.
We compare a National Senior Certificate with the remark that the student has met the minimum requirements for admission to bachelor’s programmes to a diploma.
Senior general secondary education (hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs, HAVO). A HAVO diploma is awarded upon successful completion of a 5-year programme of general secondary education.
Please note: 'at least a HAVO diploma' means that the diploma has a higher level than a HAVO diploma, but a lower level than a diploma. The level of the diploma lies between a HAVO diploma and a VWO diploma.
Pre-university education (voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs, VWO). A VWO diploma is awarded upon successful completion of a 6-year programme of pre-university education. VWO is the highest level of general secondary education available in the Netherlands.