Alternative schools: 3 steps for parents considering leaving government schools

alternative schools

More and more we realise that traditional schooling is not a one-size-fits-all system. Add to this, South Africa has very few schools to cater for the growing population and the need for education. So, be it as it may, we now have a need and even an opportunity for alternative schooling with schools that recognise our kids as individuals and nurture their growth and unique ways of learning.

This may be an unchartered journey for many new parents. Most are lost amidst the unfamiliar terms of qualifications, curriculums and billboards of new alternative schooling centres. Let’s unpack these in simple terms:

And so the journey begins:

The nightmare of applying for a place at a government school

It’s almost midnight on the 14th June, 2023.  The Eskom se Push app told you that loadshedding was supposed to finish at 22:00, but here you are, charging your cell phone in your car as your battery is about to die.  You’re hoping that the running engine is not going to give the neighbours cause for alarm while waiting, patiently, for the online GDE submission portal to open.  Your son is in Grade 7 and you need to apply for place in a public school for 2024.

Your mind drifts back to when you applied for a place for him in Grade 1, and how you were number 186 in the queue, despite arriving at 02:00 armed with a thermos, blanket, and camping chair. The panic welling up inside you brings you firmly back to the present as you wonder what you are going to do should you not find a place for your son next year.

With the ever-rising costs of living you simply cannot afford the private school that is a mere 3km up the road, as convenient as it may be.

So, the question remains – what do you do, should you not secure a place at a public school?  You may not have considered anything outside of the traditional schooling system, but if the Department places your child at a school 63km’s away from home, you may be forced to look at alternatives.

How to find an alternative school ?

There are probably more options than you think, and finding the one that will work best for you and your child will be the challenge.

From homeschooling, unschooling, worldschooling (yes, this is a thing, believe it or not!), tutor centres, learning pods, micro schools, online schools, vocational schools – these are all alternative school options worth reviewing.

1. What does your child want to do?

Parents should always begin with the end in mind.  What does your child want to do after Grade 12?  They might harbour a lifelong dream of playing rugby for the Springboks, but given that only 15 players run onto the field at a time, what is the backup plan?

Not everybody needs or wants to go to university, so is a Bachelor’s Pass important?  Will a Diploma Pass or Higher Certificate Pass be sufficient? Given that opportunities for employment in this country are limited, they are even more limited to those who do not have a National Senior Certificate (i.e. a matric qualification recognised in SA)  Fun fact – in South Africa, one can’t even join the army without passing Grade 12!!

2. So how to get from here to matric? Where to start?

Investigate using a recognised Distance Education Provider (DEP). A DEP is an institution other than a school, that registers learners for the National Senior Certificate qualification. A DEP provides the learner with curriculum materials and takes responsibility for overseeing the learner’s assessments throughout the year.

These assessments are routinely moderated by SACAI, the South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute, a non-profit private assessment body, accredited by Umalusi, that assesses the National Senior Certificate, for learners who are not at mainstream schools.

3. Find a suitable school near you!

There are over 40 credible and well-established Distance Education Providers’s, like Mindscape Education, who have earned their stripes in this relatively new space.   By using a Distance Education Provider, you can “homeschool” by either

  • teaching your own child at home –  click here for help with homeschooling
  • employ a tutor to teach your child at home – click here to find a tutor
  • use a tutor centre that facilitates teaching

Mindscape encourages parents to make use of subject based assessment venues, which are facilities that have been vetted and have met a range of different criteria.  This criterion focuses primarily on ensuring that assessments, tasks and examinations have been conducted with integrity, under invigilated conditions.

Click here to find more information about Mindscape Education
Click here to ask Mindscape Education for help

alternative schools

Mindscape is registered with SACAI as a DEP, is a member of the Association for Distance Education and Online Schools and is registered with the IEB as an accredited online school.

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Coleen Lambert

Coleen Lambert

Coleen Lambert is the founder of Mindscape Education. She is also a wife, mom to 3, godmother to 5 and a St Bernard lover. In her spare time. she watches brainless TV shows and eats copious amounts of chocolate.

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