Alternative schooling to government schools

schooling alternatives

With so much confusion around the opening of schools, parents are worried not only about the safety of their kids but also the value of the academic year.

If you are anxious about the safety of your child, have discovered that your child thrives on individual attention, or if you are simply curious…  about other options, here are a few alternatives to traditional government schools to consider.

Independent or private schools  

With many schools already oversubscribed, not to mention the state of public schools, more parents are opting for private education instead of using the public schooling system. Independent schools usually offer:

  • Better teacher-to-learner ratios,
  • Excellent facilities,
  • A range of extracurricular activities, or
  • Sometimes even an international curriculum.

Keep in mind: Despite efforts to make private schools more affordable, it remains out of financial reach for many families.

 Distance Learning 

With distance schooling, learners never have to set foot in a classroom – it is, as the name implies, 100% virtual and can be accessed from anywhere via the internet. While it is still a fairly new “school” option in South Africa, virtual or distance schooling allows learners to complete Grade R to Grade 12 at the click of a button; all they need is a smartphone or tablet and an internet connection. Learners are usually guided by online teachers.

Keep in mind: Electricity issues, high data costs, and limited technological knowledge and resources may be obstacles to successful virtual or distance schooling.


This trend, in which children lead the way in their education, is beginning to take root in South Africa. The basic premise of unschooling is that learning happens as a by-product of living, as well as intentionally because of curiosity – there is no set curriculum and children direct their own learning according to their interests and goals.

Keep in mind: Unschooling presents a challenge in terms of how children are assessed, so problems may arise if they want to apply to university.


Home education or homeschooling has been legal in South Africa since 1996 and has become a widely accepted and popular education option in recent years.

Parents are drawn to the idea of home education for a variety of reasons:

  • Some live in rural areas, far away from any schools, and must choose between boarding school or teaching their children at home.
  • Some are concerned about relentless bullying.
  • Some are unable to find a school that resonates with their personal morals or religious beliefs. In the case of children with special needs, some parents are faced with lengthy waiting lists at the few schools able to accommodate them.
  • Some parents have simply had enough of overflowing classes and poor education standards.

Whatever the reasons, home education allows parents and children flexibility around time, venue, material and pace. What this means is that parents get to decide what, when and where their children learn.

Keep in mind: Many parents feel intimidated by the idea of homeschooling. The good news is that they don’t have to do it alone – resources and support systems exist to make home education possible for any family, and the availability of set curricula  containing lesson plans and schedules make it easy to plan and implement.

There is no “right” option when it comes to education. The constitution enshrines every child’s right to education, but it does not specify what form that education has to take. So, weigh up your options and make the best choice for your family.

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Danielle Barfoot

Danielle Barfoot

Danielle Barfoot, mom to a boisterous teen and freelancer who writes about parenting and education. She writes regularly for Impaq Education, a curriculum provider for home education.

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