The Education sector in South Africa

Despite substantial government spending in the education sector, providing access to “quality education for all” is one of the most pressing development challenges faced by South Africa.

The UK and South Africa have similar approaches in teaching and tradition in education. English is also used as a teaching medium positioning the UK 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 also boasts some 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 2012/13 allocated £15.9 billion to the sector or 6% of GDP. South Africa has 12 million pupils in over 25,000 schools as well as 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).

In January 2012 the South African Government launched its green paper on post-school education and training. This outlined a broad policy for expanding and improving access to post-school education and training opportunities as follows:

  • Institutions will be strengthened to improve education quality.

  • Better assistance provided to improve the infrastructure and quality of teaching.

  • Building coherence between basic education and the post-school system.

  • Building coherence between the post-school system and labour market.

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 Learning

  • Vocational and Further Education

  • ICT and innovative products

  • Independent (private) schools

  • University and schools infrastructure

Latest export opportunities in the Education and Training in South Africa

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.

Melissa Else

Trade & Investment Advisor

UKTI Johannesburg

Tel: +27 (0)11 537 72205


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 and Training sector

Major Events

Education Week

Date: 4 – 6 July 2013

Website address:

Future Ed

Website address:

Useful links

More about OMIS and other UKTI services for exporters

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