Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga says her department is developing a new framework to help regulate the rise of online schools in South Africa.
Answering in a recent parliamentary Q&A, Motshekga said her department has already developed the draft framework for the establishment of both online private and public schools.
“The purpose of the framework is to address the policy gap and provide guidance on the procedure for the establishment of an online school,” she said. “The framework has been shared with provincial education departments for input and comments before it can be distributed to other stakeholders.”
Motshekga said that regulations were introduced in 2018 around homeschooling – but that these are separate from the framework around online schools. Until now, very little has been said around the regulation of online schools in South Africa – including the prospect of government schools offering an online matric or other certificates.
However, South Africa has seen a significant move to online education over the last two years, primarily driven as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes a number of existing private schools which have had to incorporate online teaching due to ongoing lockdown restrictions.
JSE-listed independent education provider Curro opened its Curro Online offering in mid-June 2020, and the offering now boasts more than 600 learners.
Corporates have also shown eagerness to offer online learning facilities. At the end of October, mobile operator MTN launched its online school, offering a digital curriculum for grades R-12. The online school, endorsed by the Department of Basic Education, offers additional features like video lessons, assessments and extra-tuition lessons for grade 10 to 12 learners.
Notably, the University of Cape Town has also become the first university on the African continent to launch an online high school, which opened its doors in 2022. The university said that it has already received 8,000 applications for its courses since it was first announced.
“As an online school, we aspire to turn physical limitations into digital opportunities for Africa’s children to access aspirational, quality secondary school education. It gives us great pleasure to know and see that we are bridging a real gap in the system,” said Yandiswa Xhakaza, UCT Online High School’s first director and principal.