Education and Schools in Cape Town
Download the free Expat Arrivals Cape Town Schools Guide for an overview of what expat parents can expect from the school system in Cape Town. Read about a typical school day, the difference between public and private schools, and everything you need to know about the admissions process.
Education standards vary tremendously at government schools, while private and international schools offer consistently high levels of education - with a price to match.
The city is also home to the University of Cape Town, located at the foot of Devil's Peak and consistently ranked as the best university in Africa. There are several other well known institutions that can be reached from the city, including the University of Stellenbosch, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and various creative academies.
The school year in South Africa runs from mid-January to early December, across three or four equal terms, depending on the school. Holidays generally take place in April, June/July/August, September and December. Applications must be made well in advance of arrival at the school expat parents want to send their children to since there is a lot of competition for places and waiting lists are often long. It may be necessary to apply to the Department of Home Affairs for a study permit.
Public schools in Cape Town
Expat parents considering public schooling for their children may hear about “former Model C” schools. A term going back to the apartheid era, the name has stuck to describe schools that are partially funded and controlled by a private governing body as well as the state.
The best among these schools tend to have long, prestigious histories and are almost always located in the city’s more reputable suburbs. SACS, Wynberg Girls High School and Westerford High School, for example, consistently rank among the best schools in the country. The fees for former Model C schools are often on the high end of the spectrum by public school standards, but they are still generally cheaper than private and international schools.
Private schools in Cape Town
There are many excellent private schools in Cape Town with good academic track records and international university acceptance rates. Given the range of good private schools in and around the city, they are often the first choice of informed expat parents moving to the city.
Provided that they meet the standards prescribed by the Education Department, private schools can manage their own learning, teaching and assessment of students. They can also choose whether to follow the South African national curriculum, the curriculum of the national Independent Examinations Board (IEB) or any other officially recognised curriculum.
Most private schools either follow the state or the IEB curriculum, with senior students graduating from high school with a National Senior Certificate. The IEB qualification is internationally recognised and many of the students who graduate with one progress to international universities.
Some of the best known private schools include Bishops Diocesan College, Redham House, Herschel Girls School and St Cyprians School. Fees at the most elite schools can cost well over 100,000 ZAR.
International schools in Cape Town
International schools in South Africa follow curricula determined by international bodies, such as the International Baccalaureate, the British Cambridge examinations (O- and A- levels) or the US Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATs). There are seven schools close to Cape Town that offer international qualifications. It goes without saying that these schools offer a high standard of education and internationally recognised qualifications; however, they are also the most expensive schools in Cape Town. They are generally popular with expats that have the financial means to afford them and those who speak the language of instruction offered at, for example, the German School.