Education Sector in South Africa

Similarities of approach and tradition in education, and the use of English as a teaching medium means that the UK is a natural partner for South Africa.

Market overview

South Africa underwent a major transformation in education following the end of apartheid in 1994 however a lack of quality teachers, poor functioning of schools, a backlog in infrastructure, absenteeism from both students and teachers and poor delivery of the curriculum mean that the state education system is still struggling to meet the needs of large parts of the population. Conversely South Africa has universities with strong academic reputations and boasts independent schools that compete on a global scale.

The South African Government’s contribution to public education remains their single largest investment. The budget for 2013 allocated £15.9 billion to the sector – 6% of GDP. South Africa has 12 million pupils in over 25,000 schools. 23 universities and 50 public Further Education Colleges. There are two main government ministries: Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).

The education system in South Africa is not producing the skills needed in the labour market and the shortage of skilled workers contributes to the persistently high unemployment rate. Only 16% of 18-24 year old South Africans have or are engaged in post-school education. Opportunities exist for UK companies in recognition of prior learning, assessment tools and niche and technical skills provision.

South Africa has an education and training system very similar to the UK’s and there are opportunities across the board for UK companies and institutes to supply to or work with South African education organisations.

Key opportunities

•Pre-school and early childhood development

•Vocational and further education

•ICT and mobile technology

•Bridging courses & distance learning

•RPL & assessment tools

•Basic education English language tools

Latest export opportunities in the Education sector

Latest export opportunities in South Africa

Getting into the market

Much of South Africa’s legal, economic and business practices and legislation is based on the UK equivalents. This makes operating in South Africa less problematic and alien than in other international markets. Regulatory standards also tend to mirror EU equivalents and the cultural and historical links are broadly positive in the UK’s favour. South Africa does operate a policy of Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment to redress the imbalances to black employment under the apartheid regime. This legislation particularly influences government procurement.

More about doing business in South Africa


Market intelligence is critical when doing business overseas, and UKTI can provide bespoke market research and support during overseas visits though our chargeable Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS).

To commission research or for general advice about the market, get in touch with our specialists in country – or contact your local international trade team.

Contact your local international trade team

UKTI Events

UKTI runs a range of events for exporters, including seminars in the UK, trade missions to overseas markets and support for attendance at overseas trade shows.

Latest events in the Education sector

Major Events

  • Education Week

July 2014

Website address:

  • Future Ed

Date TBC

Website address:

Useful links

More about OMIS and other UKTI services for exporters

Sectors: Education & Training
Countries: South Africa
Export Action Plan