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South Africa
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Diagram of the education system

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  • Diagram of education system in country language


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  • > Notes on the education system in South Africa
    Education system in South Africa

    South Africa
    Overview of the education system (EAG 2020)
  • In 2018, 6% of 25-34 year-olds had a tertiary degree in South Africa compared to 45% on average across OECD countries.
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    The following list displays indicators for which your selected country shows the highest and lowest values among countries. The list can be sorted by level of education or by age group. All rankings are calculated including available data from OECD and partner countries. Find out more about the methodology here.

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    Educational outcomes

    In South Africa, the percentage of 25-64 year-olds who attained a bachelor's or equivalent tertiary education degree is one of the lowest among countries with available data. (5.3 %, rank 41/46 , 2019) Download Indicator

    South Africa has one of the lowest percentages of 25-64 year-olds whose highest education level is a master's or equivalent tertiary education degree. (0.9 %, rank 39/43 , 2019) Download Indicator

    The level of short-cycle tertiary attainment among 25-34 year-olds is one of the lowest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (0.6 %, rank 31/36 , 2019) Download Indicator

    The level of short-cycle tertiary attainment among 55-64 year-olds is one of the lowest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (1.4 %, rank 30/39 , 2019) Download Indicator

    Attainment by gender

    In South Africa, the share of 25-64 year-old men who attained a bachelor's or equivalent tertiary education degree is one of the smallest among countries with available data. (5.1 %, rank 40/46 , 2019) Download Indicator

    The share of 25-64 year-old women who attained a bachelor's or equivalent tertiary education degree is one of the smallest among countries with available data. (5.5 %, rank 42/46 , 2019) Download Indicator

    South Africa has one of the smallest shares of 25-64 year-old men whose highest education level is a master's or equivalent tertiary education degree. (1 %, rank 39/43 , 2019) Download Indicator

    South Africa has one of the smallest shares of 25-64 year-old women whose highest education level is a master's or equivalent tertiary education degree. (0.8 %, rank 39/43 , 2019) Download Indicator

    Participation in education

    The share of upper secondary 15-19-year-old students enrolled in vocational programmes is one of the lowest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (2.3 %, rank 38/39 , 2018) Download Indicator

    The share of upper secondary 20-24-year-old students enrolled in vocational programmes is one of the smallest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (27.2 %, rank 29/38 , 2018) Download Indicator

    Graduation by gender

    Among OECD and partner countries with available data, South Africa has one of the largest shares of women graduates from tertiary programmes. (61.3 %, rank 7/36 , 2018) Download Indicator

    In South Africa, the share of female doctoral graduates in the field of business, administration and law is relatively low. (37.2 %, rank 34/43 , 2018) Download Indicator

    In South Africa, the share of female doctoral graduates in the field of engineering, manufacturing and construction is relatively low. (16.8 %, rank 40/43 , 2018) Download Indicator

    Graduation by field of education

    The percentage of tertiary graduates in the field of arts and humanities is one of the lowest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (5.1 %, rank 37/43 , 2018) Download Indicator

    The percentage of tertiary graduates in the field of business, administration and law is one of the highest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (32.3 %, rank 8/43 , 2018) Download Indicator

    The percentage of tertiary graduates in the field of natural sciences, mathematics and statistics is one of the highest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (7.3 %, rank 9/43 , 2018) Download Indicator

    The percentage of tertiary graduates in the field of information and communication technologies is one of the lowest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (3.2 %, rank 33/42 , 2018) Download Indicator

    The percentage of tertiary graduates in the field of engineering, manufacturing and construction is one of the lowest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (8.1 %, rank 37/43 , 2018) Download Indicator

    The percentage of tertiary graduates in the field of health and welfare is one of the lowest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (6.7 %, rank 40/43 , 2018) Download Indicator

    The percentage of tertiary graduates in the field of services is one of the lowest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (0.4 %, rank 40/43 , 2018) Download Indicator

    The share of doctoral graduates in the field of business, administration and law in South Africa is relatively large. (17 %, rank 4/45 , 2018) Download Indicator

    The share of doctoral graduates in the field of engineering, manufacturing and construction in South Africa is relatively small. (8.9 %, rank 37/45 , 2018) Download Indicator

    Student mobility

    In South Africa, the number of international or foreign students per national student abroad is one of the highest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (5 Students, rank 9/46 , 2018) Download Indicator

    Public and private expenditure in education

    In South Africa, total public expenditure on primary through tertiary educational institutions as a percentage of total public expenditure is comparatively high. (15.1 %, rank 2/42 , 2017) Download Indicator

    Total public expenditure on education as a percentage of total government expenditure, for primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education is relatively high in South Africa compared to OECD and partner countries with available data. (12.6 %, rank 1/42 , 2017) Download Indicator

    Ratio of student to teaching staff

    The number of students per teacher in secondary schools is one of the largest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (27.6 Ratio, rank 3/41 , 2018) Download Indicator

    Employment and educational attainment

    The employment rate among 25-34 year-olds with a short-cycle tertiary education is comparatively low. (74.8 %, rank 29/31 , 2019) Download Indicator

    The employment rate among 35-44 year-olds without upper secondary education is comparatively low. (51.9 %, rank 41/42 , 2019) Download Indicator

    The employment rate among 45-54 year-olds without upper secondary education is comparatively low. (51.3 %, rank 41/42 , 2019) Download Indicator

    The employment rate among 35-44 year-olds with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education is comparatively low. (64.5 %, rank 42/42 , 2019) Download Indicator

    The employment rate among 45-54 year-olds with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education is comparatively low. (66.9 %, rank 41/42 , 2019) Download Indicator

    Neither in education nor employed

    (13.5 %, rank 7/39 , 2018) Download Indicator

    (11.8 %, rank 6/38 , 2018) Download Indicator

    (15.2 %, rank 7/37 , 2018) Download Indicator


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    General findings
    
                            
    • While 37% of 15-19 year-old upper secondary students are in vocational programmes, the share increases to 61% among students over 25.
    • The most popular fields of study among vocational graduates vary at different levels of education. While engineering, manufacturing and construction is the most common broad field at upper secondary level, at short-cycle tertiary level, most students graduate from business, administration and law, or health and welfare.
    • Combined school and work-based learning can help students transition smootly into the labor market. However, only one -third of all upper secondary vocational students are enrolled in school and work-based programmes on average across OECD countries.
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    • Between the age of 3 to 5, 88% of children are enrolled in pre-primary and primary education, on average across OECD countries.
    • The estimated expenditure on all children aged 3 to 5 enrolled in ECEC and primary education amounts to an average of 0.6% of GDP. Only in Iceland and Norway does it equal or exceed 1.0%.
    • The ECEC workforce is at the heart of high-quality education. On average across OECD countries, there are 14 children for every teacher working in pre-primary education (ISCED 02).
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    • In 2019, 45% of 25-34 year-olds held a tertiary degree, compared to 28% among 55-64 year-olds, on average across OECD countries.
    • On average across OECD countries, 17% of first-time tertiary entrants enter short-cycle tertiary programmes. The employment rate of adults with a short-cycle tertiary degree is 4 percentage points higher than those with an upper secondary vocational attainment and they earn 16% more, on average across OECD countries.
    • Based on current patterns, it is estimated that 38% of young adults across OECD countries will graduate from tertiary education for the first time before the age of 30 (excluding international students).
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    • In 2017, total expenditure amounted to approximately USD 9 100 per student in primary institutions and USD 10 500 in secondary institutions on average across OECD countries.
    • After increasing between 2005 and 2012, total expenditure on primary to tertiary institutions as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) has fallen to 4.9% in 2017 on average, below its 2005 value of 5.1%. This is due to educational expenditure rising more slowly than GDP over this period, growing by 17% while GDP grew by 27%.
    • Private sources financed more than 30% of the expenditure, on average, at tertiary level compared to 10% at primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary level.
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    • There are relatively few young teachers (under the age of 30), and the proportion decreases with the level of education. Young teachers make up 12% of the teaching population in primary education, 10% in lower secondary education and 8% in upper secondary education, on average across OECD countries.
    • While instruction time for students increases at higher educational levels, statutory teaching time in public institutions decreases: teachers in OECD countries and economies are required to teach on average 778 hours per year at primary level compared to 680 hours at upper secondary level (general programmes).
    • Between 2005 and 2019, the statutory salaries of primary and secondary general teachers - with 15 years of experience and the most prevalent qualifications - increased by 2-3%, despite salaries falling after the 2008 economic crisis, on average across OECD countries and economies with available data.
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    Key
    Country Reviews for South Africa

    Note: These values should be interpreted with care since they are influenced by countries' specific contexts and trade-offs. In education, there is often no simple most- or least-efficient model. For instance, the share of private expenditure in education must be read against other measures designed to mitigate inequities, such as loans and grants; longer learning time is an opportunity to convey more and better content to students, but may hinder investments in other important areas. If you want further information on the nature of different variables, please take the time to read the analysis and contextual information, available at the website for each publication.
    All rankings for individual variables are compiled on the basis of OECD and G20 countries for which data are available. The OECD average includes only OECD countries which are listed here: http://www.oecd.org/about/membersandpartners/

    Reference years displayed in the Education GPS correspond to the most common year of reference among countries for which data is available on each variable. Some countries may have provided data refering to another year, to know more about possible exceptions on data please click on the "Download Indicator" link on each variable. When a year of reference corresponds to a school year encompassing two years, the reference reads as follows: 2018 for school year 2017/2018.

    *TALIS averages are based on all countries participating in the TALIS survey, including partner countries and economies. This explains the difference between the OECD average and the TALIS average. Data from the TALIS survey and Education at a Glance (EAG) may differ. See Annex E of the TALIS technical report and Annex 3 of EAG 2019 for more details about the data collections.

    B-S-J-Z (China) refers to the four PISA-participating provinces/municipalities of the People's Republic of China: Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.

    For additional notes, please refer to annexes in the list of links below the introductory country profile text.