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South Africa

Preprimary & Primary Education


Although some provinces provide preprimary education, the scale is limited and the field of early childhood development is dominated by the nongovernmental sector in South Africa. Preprimary schools must be registered with local authorities, and their operations fall under the control of provincial educational departments, who oversee both public and private preschool programs. In reality, insufficient numbers of trained teaching staff at the preprimary level were available in 2001, whether through publicly or privately funded institutions, to mount an effective preprimary education program.

School enrollments in general are very difficult to specify and compare in South Africa due to the fact that ratios vary markedly by racial group, gender, income level, and geographical location. Additionally, the manner in which age levels are defined and students of particular ages are included or excluded further complicates the reliability of measures and their comparability across regions, sources, and time. That said, 1 estimate of South Africa's primary gross enrollment for 1995 was 131 percent, whereas a UNICEF fact sheet updated in December 2000 noted the gross enrollment rate at the primary level to be 98 percent for boys and 86 percent for girls, with corresponding net enrollment rates of 88 percent for boys and 86 percent for girls. In 1995 approximately 49 percent of pupils enrolled in primary school were girls. Under the new educational reforms of the 1990s the average class size at the primary level was to be 35 students, much lower than the earlier number in impoverished communities though significantly higher than the prevailing class size in white majority schools. This goal reportedly had been met by 2001, according to the Department of Education.

Children are admitted to primary school at age six. There is a junior primary school phase that lasts for three years and a senior primary school phase that also lasts for three years. In the first three years, children learn to read, write, and count. A start is also made at learning a second language. The next phase stresses reading and oral proficiency in one's first language and in the second language taught. In addition, primary pupils are taught mathematics, general science, history, geography, and skills such as needlework, woodwork, and art.


Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceSouth Africa - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education