A child may begin schooling with grade 0 (also called reception, or grade-R) from the age of four. Grades 1 to 9 are compulsory and classified as General Education and Training (GET).
Grades 11 and 12, Further Education and Training (FET), are non-compulsory; qualification at this level with a matriculation certificate is required to enter tertiary education.
Some schools offer a post-matric/sixth-form level which allows students to sit for A-level exams.
The three-tier system of education is as follows:
This system is also referred to in phases:
Preschools are for children from age four up to seven years of age. They are normally split into two grades:
Compulsory education begins at grade 1. Parents are permitted to enrol their children in grade R or grade 1 a year later than usual if they feel that they are not ready for school. Some schools make this compulsory, insisting that children begin year one at the age of seven.
Public preschools are provided by some of the provincial departments of education but funding is limited. Most require top up fees. There are also many independent preschools or crèches. Children's learning focuses on literacy, numeracy and life skills.
The Centre for Early Childhood Development runs the Early Childhood Development Programme (ECD), mainly implemented in preschools, aimed at developing young children.
Children attend primary school from their reception year to grade 6. The reception year is optional, and children begin formal schooling in grade one. Junior primary school usually lasts three years where children are taught basic subjects such as reading and writing, mathematics, and usually a second language is introduced.
During senior primary school (age 10 to 12 years) in addition to maths and language skills, children learn history, geography, life skills and science as well as developing written and speaking skills in their second language.
Annual National Assessments (ANAs) are standardised across the country and take place in literacy and numeracy in the foundation stage (grades 1 to 3) and in numeracy and languages in the intermediate phase (grades 4 to 6).
Secondary education is also divided into junior and senior phases. Students may study two or three languages in secondary school. Senior secondary school offers the chance for students to broaden and deepen their knowledge in various academic subjects to help them with further study or prepare them for their choice of career.
Students study a minimum of four subjects from the following areas:
Grades 10 to 12 (optional years) can also include career orientated education and training in other Further Education and Training institutions such technical and community colleges.
Education is compulsory up to the end of grade 9. Certificates are awarded on completion of grade 10 and 11, but the National Senior Certificate or NSC (the equivalent of a High School Diploma) is awarded on completion of grade 12. The NSC acts as a high school leaving certificate and is also referred to as the matriculation or matric certificate.
To gain the NSC students must take at least six subjects but there is an option to include three others which are not compulsory. Compulsory subjects include:
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