Basic education
Role players
Programmes and projects
Higher education and training
Role players
Related links




The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has since aligned its Action Plan to take account of the 2030 timelines prescribed in the National Development Plan (NDP): Vision 2030. The Action Plan to 2019: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2030, is expected to guide the basic education sector in its work.

Among other things, the plan requires the department to use school as a vehicle for promoting access to a range of public services amongst learners in areas such as health, poverty alleviation, psychosocial support, sport and culture.

Over the medium term, the DBE was expected to improve school infrastructure; improve curriculum delivery; reduce illiteracy; increase the number of learners completing Grade 12 (Matric); ensure the adequate supply of quality teachers, and assess the quality of teaching and learning.

The department would also provide infrastructure, equip- ment and teacher training to improve participation and success rates in mathematics, science and technology, including structured training programmes in technical maths and sci- ence for subject advisors and teachers.

The DBE’s National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) contributes to the NDP’s priority of eliminating poverty and supporting food security by providing meals to schools each year.

During the 2015/16 fnancial year, more than nine million learners in 21 191 public schools benefted from the NSNP, which represent s 75,9% of learners in 88,1% public schools. According to the results of the General Household Survey released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) in June 2016, nationally, 33,2% of individuals aged fve years and older attended an educational institution in 2015.

Approximately 88% of South Africans above the age of five years who attended educational institutions were in either pri- mary or high school, while 4,4% attended tertiary institutions. The percentage of learners who reported that they were exempted from paying tuition fees increased from 0,4% in 2002 to 64,6% in 2015. Provinces with the highest proportion of non-payers were Limpopo (92,5%) and Eastern Cape (79,1%). Learners were least likely to beneft from the 'no fee’ system in Western Cape (43%) and Gauteng (41,6%).

Basic education

The aim of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) is to develop, maintain and support a South African school education system for the 21st century in which all citizens have access to lifelong learning, as well as education and training, which will, in turn, contribute towards improving the quality of life and building a peaceful, prosperous and democratic South Africa.

The NDP enjoins all South Africans to learn at least one indigenous language as part of nation-building and social cohesion.

Annual National Assessment (ANA)

ANA standardised national assessment for languages and mathematics in the senior phase (grades 7 - 9), intermediate phase (grades 4 – 6) and in literacy and numeracy for the foundation phase (grades 1 – 3).

The question papers and marking memoranda (exemplars) are supplied by the DBE and the schools manage the conduct of the tests as well as the marking and internal moderation.

Curriculum and Policy Statement (CAPS)

CAPS is a single, comprehesive and concise policy document which has replaced the Subject and Learning Area State- ments, Learning Programme Guidelines and Subject Assess- ment Guidelines for all the subjects listed in the National Curriculum Statement Grades R – 12.

Spelling Bee South Africa

As part of the Integrated National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy: A Whole School Approach and also as part of the Getting the Nation to Read Campaign, the DBE in partnership with SABC Education, UNISA, AVBOB Foundation, Spell It SA and Camp I am and Soul Buddies, hosted the national championships at Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Johannes- burg on 10 October 2015.

The DBE Spelling Bee South Africa (Spelling Bee) is aimed at improving learners’ performance in languages, especially in English.

The 2015 national champions in the Spelling Bee were: Greenfeld Primary in the Western Cape, Pioneer Primary in Gauteng and Dikolobe Primary in Limpopo.

Kha Ri Gude Mass Literacy Campaign

The DBE has won the 2016 UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy Award for the Kha Ri Gude Mass Literacy Campaign. The Kha Ri Gude Literacy Campaign was intended to reduce the national rate of illiteracy by 50% by 2015. This was in line with the government’s Education for All commitment made in Dakar in 2000 as well as its commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals on poverty reduction, women’s empowerment, HIV and AIDS eradication, environmental protection, and sustainable democratisation and peacebuilding. The aim of Kha Ri Gude is to empower (skills development)

socially disadvantaged people to become self-reliant and to be able to participate more effectively in the economy and society.

The department was expected to reach the targeted 4.7 million illiterate adults by 2016/17, after which the programme would be phased out.

Safety in schools

The DBE has implemented various policies and measures to ensure the safety of all learners, educators and relevant stakeholders in schools.

Interventions focus on addressing elements of physical infrastructure related to proper fencing, alarm systems and burglarproofng, resilience-building programmes for young people and the strengthening of partnerships with relevant stakeholders.

The department has a solid partnership with the South African Police Service aimed at linking schools with local police stations. A National School Safety Framework has been developed to serve as a management tool for provincial and district offcials responsible for school safety, principals, senior management team members, SGB members, teach- ers and learners to identify and manage risk and threats of violence in and around schools.

The department has developed a National Strategy for the Prevention and Management of Alcohol and Drug Use amongst learners in schools. Schools have been provided with a Guide to Drug Testing in South African Schools.

In terms of the Regulations for Safety Measures at all Public Schools, the Minister has declared all public schools as drug-free and dangerous weapon free zones. Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Sexual Violence and Harassment have been developed and distributed to schools to support schools and school communities in responding to cases of sexual harassment and violence against learners.

The guidelines set out clearly how public schools should treat victims of sexual harassment and violence, and the steps to be taken to deal with those who have or are alleged to have committed such acts.

The department has released a handbook for learners on how to prevent sexual abuse in public schools, titled Speak Out – Youth Report Sexual Abuse. The purpose of the hand- book is to equip learners with knowledge and understanding of sexual harassment and sexual violence, its implications, ways to protect themselves from perpetrators, and where to report.

The handbook also provides very useful contact details of national and provincial organisations that can assist.

Role players

Provincial departments of education

The national department shares a concurrent role with the provincial departments for basic schooling and ECD, but it is the responsibility of each provincial department to finance and manage its schools directly.

District offices are the provincial departments’ main interface with schools.

Council of Education Ministers (CEM)

The CEM, consisting of the Minister of Basic Education, the Minister of Higher Education and Training and the nine provincial members of the executive councils for education, meets regularly to discuss the promotion of national education policy, share information and views on all aspects of education in South Africa, and coordinate action on matters of mutual interest.

Heads of Education Departments Committee (Hedcom)

Hedcom consists of the Director-General (DG) of the DBE, the deputy DGs of the department and the heads of provincial departments of education.


The Umalusi Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (GFET) sets and maintains standards through the development and management of the GFET qualifcations sub-framework. The Nguni name means “herder” or “shepherd.”

National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (Needu)

The Needu facilitates school improvement  through  systematic evaluation. The unit evaluates how district offces, provincial departments and the national department monitors and supports schools, school governing bodies and teachers. This entails identifying critical factors that inhibit or advance the attainment of sector goals and school improvement, and making focused recommendations for addressing problem areas that undermine school improvement and the attainment of sector goals.

Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC)

The main purpose of the ELRC is to maintain labour peace within public education through processes of dispute prevention and resolution.

Programmes and projects

Learning and teaching support material Educational portal

Through the Thutong Portal (, the DBE aims to lead the drive to improve learning in the country through appropriate use of technology.

The Thutong Portal is the online point of entry to a com- prehensive array of free educational resources, policy information, and interactive services concerning all aspects of the South African schooling sector. It provides relevant information and services about the South African school curriculum, teacher development, school administration and management.

Thutong – meaning “a place of learning” in Setswana – features a searchable database of web-based curriculum resources for various education sectors, grades and subjects

School fees and exemption

School fees are set at annual public meetings of school gov- erning bodies (SGBs), where parents vote on the amount to be paid.

Parents who cannot afford to pay school fees can apply to the SGB for conditional, partial or full exemption from paying school fees. Schools must not charge school fees for orphans. The right not to charge school fees will be limited to the schools that have been declared no-fee schools. The names of the no-fee schools, which are determine based on the economic level of the community around the school, will be published in a provincial gazette.

Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Development Initiative (Asidi)

The objective of the ASIDI is to eradicate the backlog in schools without water, sanitation and electricity, and to replace those schools constructed from inappropriate material such as mud, and asbestos to contribute towards levels of optimum learn- ing and teaching. The Schools Infrastructure Backlog Grant funds the ASIDI portfolio.

Higher education and training

Education at all levels remains a top priority of government. The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) is responsible for post-school education and training in universities, colleges and adult education centres. The department has been building a single, coherent, differentiated and articulated post-school education and training system. This will contribute to overcoming the structural challenges facing society by expanding access to education and training opportunities and increasing equity, as well as achieving high levels of excellence and innovation.

South Africa’s higher education landscape comprises the following institutions:

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET)

TVET comprises vocational, occupational and artisan education and training as offered by TVET colleges. This band of education and training is also referred to as ‘post-school’, meaning that it refers to education and training that takes place after leaving school, even if only with a Grade 9 completed. The only age restriction for a person wishing to study at the TVET level is that the person should be 16 years or older. There are 50 registered and accredited public TVET colleges in South Africa operating on more than 264 campuses spread across the rural and urban areas of the country.

Role players

South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA)

SAQA is a statutory body that oversees the development of the National Qualifcations Framework by formulating and publishing policies and criteria for the registration of organisations. It also oversees the implementation of the national framework by ensuring the registration, accreditation and assignment of functions.

Council on Higher Education (CHE)

The CHE is tasked with developing and implementing a sys- tem of quality assurance for higher education, including programme accreditation, institutional audits, quality promotion and capacity development.

Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO)

The QCTO oversees the development and maintenance of the occupational qualifcations sub-framework in the national qualifcations framework, and advises the Minister of Higher Education and Training on all matters of policy concerning occupational standards and qualifcations.

Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETA)

Skills development has been identified as a key requirement for economic growth in South Africa and for the economic empowerment of the previously disadvantaged majority.

SETAs are responsible for the disbursement of training levies payable by all employers in the country.

Part of the objective of the SETAs is to ensure that the skills requirements of the various sectors are identified, and that the adequate and appropriate skills are readily available.

They are required to ensure that training is of the appropriate quality and meets standards as laid out by the national framework.

National Skills Authority (NSA)

The NSA is an advisory body to give guidance to the Minister of Higher Education and Training on:

  • policy, strategy, implementation and NSA allocations
  • liaising with Setas about policy, strategy and sector-skills plans
  • implementing the NSDS
  • reviewing the accounts and balance sheet of NSA annually
  • receiving and using information from the Skills Development Planning Unit.

National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)

NSFAS provides loans and bursaries to eligible students attending public higher education and training institutions, and the subsequent administration of such loans and bursaries.

In 2016, the fund was expected to spend about R14,6 billion to fund more than 405 000 students from 25 universities and 50 TVET colleges, across 320 campuses.

Source: Pocket Guide to South Africa 2015/16

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