Private tuition on the rise as public school fees soar

2012-05-19 17:44

Private tuition is increasingly becoming an option for South Africa’s middle-class and lower-middle-class parents, with the annual fees of high-end public schools rivalling those of lower-fee private schools and private education franchises growing.

Of the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa’s 681 member schools, just more than one-third charge less than R28 000 a year, which is estimated to be the highest fees charged by public schools.

Of those 255 schools, 119 charge R15 200 or less and 32 charge less than R6 800.

Jaco Deacon, the deputy CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas), said the average annual tuition fee for public primary schools in South Africa was between R5 500 and R6 000, whereas for secondary schools it was between R6 500 and R7 500.

“There are great variances in fees both within the public and private school sectors,” said Deacon.
 
“Within a large franchise, private school fees may be lower than in a one-man concern. When looking at the value proposition of public versus private, you also have to look at facilities and what activities are included in the fees.

“Something that can’t be calculated in economic terms is that in your public school, you have a teacher appointed by the education department, with pension and a fairly long career. The longer he or she is there, the more his salary grows. There is therefore much more stability in that structure.

“My own experience is that within private schools you tend to have teachers who are already on pension and are teaching to supplement their income, or those who have just completed training. In public schools there is far more continuity, whereas private schools tend to have a much higher staff turnover.”

Dr Jane Hofmeyr, executive director of the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa, said many of its member schools tended to be based around faith or particular values, and cost was not always the main consideration for parents.

“In general, parents choose independent schools because they want more, better or different education, access to education where there are no public schools available, quality education or education different to that provided by the public system – faith-based schools, or alternative philosophies such as those found in Montessori or Waldorf ones.”

She said low- and even mid-fee independent schools might not be able to match the salaries and benefits offered by public schools, but staff retention also depended on the school and the area in which it was situated.

“Many low-fee schools are established and staffed by teachers who are committed professionals and motivated less by financial reward than a desire to work within a well-managed, values-based school,” she said.

She said the number of low-fee private schools had been increasing and at least one-third of her organisation’s members fell into this category.

“They serve disadvantaged black communities, which are those that typically suffer most from poor-quality public education,” she said.

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