ATTENDANCE at private schools has grown 87% between 2000 and 2011 and this trend is set to continue, according to the South African Institute of Race Relations’ latest survey on South Africa.
While the proportion of pupils in private schools remains at 4% of children enrolled in the education system, the figures show that parents are losing faith in public schools, where enrolment grew 1.3% over the same period.
According to the survey, from 2000 to 2011 the number of private schools grew from 971 to 1,486 — a 53% increase, while the number of public schools dropped 9%, from 26,789 to 24,365.
Growth in private schooling was highest in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo — both "plagued by long-term and persistent administrative difficulties", the institute’s researcher, Jonathan Snyman, said on Wednesday.
Over the past 11 years the number of independent schools rose 326% in the Eastern Cape and 137% in Limpopo.
Eastern Cape education spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said on Wednesday the province had administrative difficulties, but it would be an "oversimplification" to attribute private school growth to a loss of faith in public schools. The province’s population was declining due to migration, but the department was struggling to keep pace with an increased demand for school infrastructure in towns such as Butterworth and Umtata, he said.
Mr Pulumani said while there were "some very good" private schools in the Eastern Cape, data showed there was often little difference in pupil performance.
Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa executive director Jane Hofmeyr said on Wednesday while the "clear crisis" in basic education drove private school growth, there was also high demand for faith-based education. Schools offering values-based education regardless of the pupil’s faith are very popular and could represent up to half the sector.
She said the continued growth of private education could have "severe implications" for provincial finances, as departments had to pay subsidies to low-fee private schools that qualified for state support amounting to 15%-60% of the cost of a public school pupil.
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