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The educational system in the RSA (Republic of South Africa)

In this article, we will focus on the educational system in South Africa : state, organization, categories and levels, common words used on campus.

The South African educational system

Credit Photo : The South African educational system -

The Republic of South Africa (RSA) is an african country located the south side of the continent. With more than 50 million inhabitants today, South Africa is one of the few developing african countries. In fact, South Africa is the only african country in the acronym called BRICS, composed of the main 5 emerging countries in the world : Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa.
In this article, we will focus on the educational system in South Africa. By the time you reach the conclusion, you will know everything about the schooling system in RSA.

I - The state of the educational system

The educational system in South Africa is very complex. While the competent authorities such as the department of education can confirm the improvement, the reality on the ground is very different. In general, the country’s level of education is poor compared to many other countries of the world. Particularly, within the country, the disparities are too visible between schools in the same province or district, between the private and public schools, etc.
The pupils in the private educational institutions are better formed compared to the ones in the public schools. This difference is due to the high standards used in the private schools, begining with the highly qualified teachers, educational materials infrastructures and internal initiatives (proposing to students foreign tests, like the one of Cambridge, when they reach their final year).
Although there some public institutions with good quality of education, the general conditions in this sector needs to be changed or improved. In fact, as stated  Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, in its 2020 report pupils and students are learning in overcrowded classrooms where even air conditionning is non existent.
See more on This brings us to our next point where we will show you the organization of the schooling system in South Africa, from A to Z.

II - The organization of the system

The countrie’s educational system is split into 3 mains categories.

- The first one is the primary education

It goes from grade 1 to grade 9, and lasts automatically for 9 years. Pupils in this category are aged between 7-15. Each and every level or grade must be completed during the 9 years. However, if a child failed, he or she can still continue the education process. For example, a pupil of 16 or 17 years old can still be in primary school, due to diverse reasons such as failing, sickness, etc.

- The second category is the secondary education

In South Africa, the secondary studies is divided into two levels.
* There is secondary education level, ranging from grade 10 to 12, while it lasts for 3 years. At grade 12, pupils must pass the National Senior Certificate also known as NSC. This test is the springboard before accessing to the higher education. It is like your passport and visa to higher educational institutions.
* Another level found in secondary school is the vocational education that lasts for 2 years. This is the level that goes from grade 11 to 12. At this level, pupils start to get proper training for their university studies or even for their use in the society, in case they do not intend university for whatever reasons.
* There is also the post secondary education, which is composed of two levels, precisely the National Certificate and the Higher National Certificate. The first one takes 1 year and the second one 2 years.

- The Third category is the Tertiary education

These are students who can get Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, Doctorate Degree, etc.
* The Bachelor’s degree in Arts and Science takes up to 3 years to be completed.
* The Bachelor’s Honors just take 1 year
* The Bachelor’s degree for professional purpose ranges from 4 to 6 years before completion, depending on the field. 

For Nursing science and Law for example, it takes 4 years, Architecture lasts for 5 years in South Africa and 6 years for the veterinary.

* The Master’s degree takes 2 additional years to the Bachelor’s degree.
* Finally, the doctorate degree requires between 2 and 4 years to be completed.

III - Commonly used words in South African campus

- SJT : Situational Judgement Test

It concerns the Health Science students. Any student willing to go for the 2 year foundation programme must go through the SJT. The candidate must realize a good score according the national standards for him or her to be selected. The test is divided into 2 sections of 70 min for each and 37 questions for the first section, 38 for the second one.   
Do not forget : But, know that you must sign a non disclosure agreement before the starting anything about the test. And not to worry, you will surely have a break so that you can ease a little bit if needed. Usually, something like 10 min will be enough. If not, you can carry on to the next section directly. For registering to the test, visit
Remember !!! If you want to cancel your SJT booking, you need to do it 2 days before the exam date.
It is very important for you, as a candidate, to read all the requirements about the test so that nothing will seem new to you. Visit for more details.   

- MBCHB : Bachelor’s of Medecine and Surgery

This degree is usually given in Great Britain or in some other countries, having the same ways of doing with the british. South Africa is an english speaking country. So, it is clear that the same system is also used over there.

- NSC : National Senior Certificate /Matric

Since 1996, the NSC became a symbol of happiness because after 12 years of studies, pupils will get a certificate in order to access to the next level. Since it’s an exam, make sure you read everything very well. From how to book to the day of the exam. See more detals on

- BACCLLB : Bachelor’s in Accounting and Law

Usually when researching about the university of Stellenbosch (, the Bachelor’s program in Accounting and Law is pointed as BACCLLB.

- NBT : National Benchmark Tests

 The test is destined to Law and Art students willing to enter the higher eduction for the first time. The exam is usually based on basics notions such as literacy, mathematics, etc.

- APS : Admission Point Score

After obtaining their matric or trying to get into higher education for the first time, it is essential to learn about the calculations of your score in order to know whether your are eligible or not for the orientation you are trying to engage in. So, do not stress your self out ! You can use this calculator by simple entering your information and your mail. The result will be sent to you. Go to to get your APS.

- NSFAS : National Student Financial Aid Scheme

As its name states, this is a kind of bursary that South African students benefit from. All they need to do is follow the procedure as asked. To apply, do not hesitate to visit

- BCOM ECONOMICS : Bachelors in Commerce in Economics

As a major to follow in an undergraduate level, candidates willing to apply for this 3 years program must know everything about the program. From dates to apply, the requirements, etc. Click on for futher information.

- Conditional offer

If you apply for a program in your last year of undergraduate and you get a contional offer or admission, this means that your are eligible. But, your final admission will depend on your final results. Based on the results and the places available in the program, you could be considered. But at first, you will get a conditional offer

- Interim academic record

A transcript that shows the results of a student in the middle of the year. This is about students still studying in one university, but intend to continue else where.

- Certificate of conduct

A document that shows the behavior of a student during a certain period of time at the university or any educational institution.
We hope that this article will be of help to you. By now, you should know how to apply in a South african university.


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