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Cape Town: Education and Childcare

Don’t get intimidated by rumors: living in Cape Town has often been described as one of the best expat experiences worldwide! This is no reason, however, to let your guard down: our expat guide to Cape Town has details on crime, safety, healthcare, and much more.

An Overview of the School System

Education in South Africa is compulsory from grade one to grade nine, with pupils beginning the academic year in which they will turn seven. Some schools offer a preparatory grade R class, but generally speaking, compulsory education can be split into three phases:

Foundation phase (grade R – grade 3): During this primary education phase, pupils are taught basic skills such as reading, writing, and arithmetic. Children can also start learning a second language, such as Afrikaans — international schools often offer other languages such as French instead.

Intermediate phase (grade 4 – grade 6): Pupils focus on improving their reading and language skills in both their home language and their second language during the second half of the primary education phase. Pupils are also introduced to further topics such as geography and general sciences.

Senior phase (grade 7– grade 9): The senior phase is the last compulsory part of education. After this phase, pupils are no longer required to attend school, however, if they choose to leave, they do not receive a degree or certification of completion. In order to obtain a National Senior Certificate (NSC), pupils must complete the further education and training phase (grades 10–12).

The academic year is usually split into four blocks and begins in mid-January and ends in early December. School holidays are usually in April, June/July, September, and December/January. 

The Standard of Education

Despite the South African’s governments efforts in trying to improve the education system, many public schools still underperform. A recent statistic showed that despite being in primary education for four years, 78%of pupils were still unable to read for meaning.

While these results are far from positive, expat parents should not be put off by public education entirely. Each province is run by its own education department, meaning standards can vary widely. Just be sure to do your research before choosing a school for your child!

The Private Alternative

Due to the somewhat flawed education system, many expatriates and well-to-do South African parents opt for sending their children to private and international schools in Cape Town. Below we’ve listed some of the most popular and reputed institutes:

  • The American International School of Cape Town (AISCT) is a private, not-for-profit co-educational school which follows an American syllabus, allowing pupils to work towards an American high school diploma.
  • The Blouberg International School is situated in the suburb parklands and follows the British national curriculum.
  • Deutsche Internationale Schule Kapstadt (DSK), also known as the German International School is a bilingual institute (German/English) offering both South African and European university entrance qualifications.
  • Helderberg International School is part of International Education Systems (IES) — an organization with a large number of schools across the globe.
  • International School of Cape Town is a private coeducational institute governed by Christian principles and values. They offer an extended UK-based curriculum that leads students towards internationally recognized qualifications such as the Cambridge IGCSE and Cambridge International A and AS level.

Naturally, a higher standard of education comes at a cost. Depending on the school and your child’s age, you can expect to pay tuition fees of up to 150,000 ZAR annually. It is also important to keep additional costs, such as uniform, transportation, and stationary costs, in mind.

Finding Care for Your Little Ones

Currently, preschool and kindergarten education is not compulsory in South Africa. However, that doesn’t mean that high-quality childcare isn’t sought-after, and especially the more prestigious schools have long waiting lists. If you are looking for a place for your child, it is a good idea to apply well in advance.

Oftentimes the best way to find a suitable local pre-school is through word-of-mouth. If you want to know which pre-school is available in your neighborhood, the website provides an extensive list, categorizing them into their respective suburbs.

Getting Some Domestic Help

It is not uncommon for expat families living in Cape Town to hire domestic help. In fact, there are employment agencies specializing in finding domestic helpers for expat families taking care of everything from contracts to UIF registrations. Remember what kind of service you are looking for, as some companies offer not only childcare packages ranging from live-in nannies to babysitters, but also extend further to cleaning services, too.

Please note that it is highly important to find yourself someone reliable who you can trust. If you decide not to find help through an agency, make sure they have sound references from former employers.

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

If there’s something you’re still not sure about, check out the InterNations Forum.

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