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Best private and public schools in South Africa: cost vs peformance

Best private and public schools in South Africa: cost vs peformance

With the rising costs of education at the top of parents’ minds, BusinessTech investigates how the top schools in both the public and private sectors compare when it comes to the performance of their pupils.

In 2015 there were 667,925 full time candidates participating in the NSC Examination, with 455,825 learners achieving a NSC pass (70.7%).

While the pass rate is down from 2014’s 75.8%, there were more passes in raw numbers, with  51,951 more students passing in 2015 than in 2014.

Private schools sat a different exam, with 10,212 full time students from 200 schools writing the 2015 IEB matric exams. 98.3% of matrics passed the exams, and 85.5% of those students qualified for Bachelor’s entry.

BusinessTech has compiled data looking at the tuition costs, number of students and number of Bachelor entry passes attained from some of the most expensive private schools and top-performing public schools in South Africa.

To determine the “top performing” public schools, BusinessTech ranked the top 10 according the number of students who sat the exams.

According to the department of education, 470 schools had a 100% matric pass rate in 2015, and 111 of them maintained a 100% pass rate for the past five years.

As all the schools listed in this comparison – private and public – achieved a 100% pass rate in 2015, the number of Bachelor entry passes (as a percentage) was selected as the measure of performance.

Note: It must be stressed that drawing any conclusions based on performance versus cost in the schools listed below is limited, as private school costs encompass more than just tuition.

For many private schools, the costs account for facilities, location and other benefits (such as fewer students per class), as well as the history and prestige associated with the schools.

The analysis does not take this into account, nor does it seek to compare differences between IEB and NSC qualifications, the quality of teachers, or any other factors that may affect the pricing of an institution.

Top performing public schools in 2015

School Matrics who wrote in 2015 % of Bachelors entry achieved School fees (2016)
Hoerskool Garsfontein 350 84% R24 200
Hoerskool Waterkloof 341 87% R25 805
Northcliff High School 252 87% R34 485
Durban Girls High School 226 96% R23 300
Westville Girls High School 225 96% R25 410
Afrikaanse Hoer Meisieskool 197 97% R28 800
Grey Boys School 186 79% R40 200
Randfontein High School 185 70% R7 800*
Westford High School 182 99% R31 600
Eunice Secondary School 174 100% R19 600
Average 232 90% R26 120

* latest available

Top performing private schools in 2015

School Matrics who wrote in 2015 % of Bachelors entry achieved School fees (2016)
St Stithians 255* 98% R117 470
Bishops 144 98% R113 440
St John’s 141 100% R124 618
Michaelhouse 115 97% R225 000**
Hilton College 114 95% R235 960**
Kearsney College 113 96% R145 500
St Alban’s College 107 95% R112 200
St Mary’s Waverley 103 100% R109 450
St Mary’s DSG 85 100% R104 100
St Andrew’s School for Girls 75 100% R111 110
Average 125 98% R139 884

* Boys and girls combined | ** Only boarding available

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These are the 20 most expensive schools in South Africa

BusinessTech's Staff Writer is directly plugged into the South African Internet backbone, and spits out press releases and other news as they receive it. They are believed to be cl...
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  • Snowlock2.0

    Since they write different exams you cannot compare them.

  • Shiizzo

    Don’t most private schools have strict minimum requirements for pupils who enroll? If a private school will only let top students enroll, it makes sense they will perform better. I’m impressed more by the public school results tbh.

    • nickn4m3

      No, the opposite is true. Private schools ten to accept more “problem” children as they provides services that other schools don’t.

      • Wayne Kitching

        It depends on the school. Some private school will only accept top performers, because they want to uphold the school’s pass rate, results, reputation, etc. My wife teaches at a private school which is more inclusive, but offer special services to children who need extra help. So far they’ve had a 100% matric pass rate.

        • nickn4m3

          “Some private school will only accept top performers, because they want to uphold the school’s pass rate, results, reputation, etc.”

          Are you suggesting that the schools listed here fall into that category?

          • Wayne Kitching

            Yes. I do. Also see @Jean_Teasdale:disqus’s comment regarding entrance exams.

          • nickn4m3

            It would be nice if you could link to a school’s website that states such a policy. I just went through my social network and asked just over 100 people who either attended a private school or currently have kids at a private school and none of them were aware of kids being turned away for not doing well enough.

            Many of the schools did have placement tests, but these did not seem to result in kids being turned away. They seemed to only be used to place kids in the correct grade or stream, especially if kids moved to the schools from other countries.

            A couple of them had kids that repeated/failed a grade. According to you these kids might be tossed out of school eventually. I’ll wait and see.

        • claudsie

          Agree, there are many inclusive private schools. There are also many that suggest learners go to other schools “more suited”

      • claudsie

        That is incorrect. If a child doesn’t fit in with the private school, they get sent to extra lessons, psychologists, etc and if they still don’t achieve they get asked to leave the school before matric.

        • nickn4m3

          That is quite an interesting accusation. If private schools select on ability and ask underachievers to leave, then how do you explain the fact that the “Top performing private schools in 2015” only have a 98% pass rate? Why then do they not kick out the 2% that fail?

          • claudsie

            Hi I think you need to read properly, the 98% is for BACHELORS PASSES, ie being able to get into university to study a degree. All the schools received 100% pass rate for matric. Do you honestly think the top 10 schools wouldn’t have 100% pass rate :p Gosh

          • nickn4m3

            My bad, I should have clarified that. I view anything less than a bachelors pass as a fail, but I should have stated that up front.

            An average of 33,3% may be a pass on paper, but that is about it.

            Even 4×50% and 3*30% for an average of 42% for a bachelors pass puts is not exactly an achievement.

            Sorry for the confusion.

    • Jean_Teasdale

      Yes, Shiizzo, traditional private schools have entrance exams so they can weed out those unlikely to pass. It makes a difference.

  • Veldmeisie

    Ahem. I can just hear the explosion, from a certain school, not on there.

  • SuperMario

    Why is Stellenberg High School not there? Here is a link to their 2015 Matric Performance:

    • Jean_Teasdale

      It hasn’t maintained a 100% matric pass rate for five years consecutively. All of the other schools have.

  • Rake

    It’s interesting, at university, the private school guy that I lived with didn’t necessarily have an advantage over me. (I went to public school). Relating to academics, but he had far superior world view, whats happening in the world and why.

    • Nick Jackson

      That and the post-school doors it opens is the main benefit, next to extra-curricular opportunities while at school.

  • NosySnoopy

    Very interesting comparison and outcome. Although it must be understood that private schools offer more than just academics in the line of discipline, values and sport. Those are probably the ones most parents pay extra for. Oh and the status, don’t forget the status.

  • Rob

    Just the two curriculums? What about Cambridge curriculum schools?

  • John Viveiros AddictedToTruth

    Springfield Convent Senior School. :

    84 matriculants who wrote the 2015 National Senior Certificate examination on achieving 100% Bachelor Passes.

    The Class of 2015 achieved 330 subject distinctions, of which 100 were above 90%.

    Cost: R58094.40

  • Shayne S

    Ya, I’m not sure how these private schools were selected. Also, I went to a private school in Cape Town,, and wrote government exams (not ieb). Not sure if this is the case for other private schools as well…

    • Progressive Pariah

      Bishops? Most private schools write IEB exams, but the only one i know that doesnt is Bishops.

  • thedarkcontinent

    YAY for Northcliff High School

  • uosuoɹʞ ʎǝlpɐɹq

    Your research for private schools seems lacking, just checked Redhill

    87 Candidates sat the examination in 2015
    100% pass rate achieved for the 41st consecutive year
    97% achieved a Bachelor’s degree pass (University Entrance)

    That should place it above at least St Andrew’s School for Girls in the chart above?

    • Jean_Teasdale

      You’re not reading it right. column three is Bachelor Degree passes, every school on both lists got a 100% matric pass rate.

      • uosuoɹʞ ʎǝlpɐɹq

        Nope you are reading it wrong, not every school has 100% Bachelor degree passes in that list and if you take the percentage of pupils with Bachelor degrees, Redhill (for example) had more than St Andrew’s School for Girls (87 vs 75 with 100% pass rate, 84 vs 75 with bachelor degree passes) I am not sure what the criteria for getting on this list if not all the schools have 100% bachelor degree passes, but something is not right with it.

        • Jean_Teasdale

          The algorithm obviously takes into account number of pupils, quality of passes and cost to determine the list.

          • uosuoɹʞ ʎǝlpɐɹq

            The algorithm (I assume you mean calculation?) is wrong, Redhill (again, just one example) should be on the list ahead of St Andrew’s School for Girls on that list. There is no mention of cost determining position on the list in the article, it specifically says the following: “the number of Bachelor entry passes (as a percentage) was selected as the measure of performance.” just on that a couple of those schools should be falling down the list

          • uosuoɹʞ ʎǝlpɐɹq

            OR a glorified advertorial for the private schools in the list

      • Jon Low

        All the schools got a 100% overall pass rate. But not all of them got a 100% BACHELOR pass rate. There are higher criteria set for a bachelor pass.

        You don’t get any degree in school. “Bachelor pass” merely means you qualify to apply for university entrance to read for a first degree and not just for a certificate or a diploma.

    • ifitwalkslikeaduck

      The 100% for the schools above are for Bachelors passes so the table is correct vs 97% above? Great school, have and had kids at junior school there but (in my opinion) needs to lift its game to compete with these three girls schools on the table above. Maybe being critical for wrong reasons but not a big fan of being regularly barged out of the way by kids as my wife or I walk through the gates vs the level of courtesy shown by my experience at these other schools.

      • uosuoɹʞ ʎǝlpɐɹq

        No, not all the schools have 100% bachelor passes in the table, look again, some of them have less than the 97% eg Hilton College 95% and St Alban’s College 95%. Yeah and agree with the kids and manners, experienced that myself

        • ifitwalkslikeaduck

          Ah got you, I was just looking at girls schools. My error.

    • Jon Low

      And is “Westford High” a mistake? Is it not Westerford High instead?

      • uosuoɹʞ ʎǝlpɐɹq

        Like I said, poor research and it seems shoddy journalism added as an afterthought

    • Nazzy

      I think these schools exclude the Western Cape…as i know St Georges Grammer (Private School in CT) had a 100% pass rate with a Bachelors pass rate in the 80s or 90s…

      • uosuoɹʞ ʎǝlpɐɹq

        Its a pretty awful article all round

  • Mogo

    What you don’t see here is that with some private schools, they de-register you if they see you’re going to fail.. This allows them to maintain their track record..

    Oops think I’ve said too much :/

    • uosuoɹʞ ʎǝlpɐɹq

      Seems to be happening in public schools too – refer to the 50% dropout rate before matric….

  • Wurnman

    I hated school even the social aspect of it..

  • Hendre’ Barnard

    I’m afraid that there is no way you can classify some of these “Public Schools” on your list as Public. You do not just walk into Grey Boys or Afrikaans Hoër Meisieskool. Children that go to those schools need to pass very strict criteria and requirements, or are recruited to go there based on academic or sports achievements.

    • Jon Low

      If you live close enough to their front gates, you are entitled to a place in that school ahead of anyone who lives across town.

  • Jean_Teasdale

    Glad I live near one of the top performing public schools!

  • AndrewWheelerDealer

    I wish the private school fees were just that. As someone with kids in a private school listed above, the school fees are only a fraction. Include development levies, “co-curricular” activities, school trips overseas, and fees for multitude of additional activities that just get added to your account….
    Why we do it? Because I’ve got not faith that the minister of education will get things right within the next 15 years, when it will be too late to make the switch.

  • v_3

    Now take those “Former Model C” and private school results out of the national matric and the Fail is even greater.

  • Broscientist

    I am just happy passing a normal matric in a normal school. First one in my family to do it too…

  • Sandy

    In 2015 92% of candidates at Oakhill School, Knysna, achieved University Entrance and I believe fees only cost around R 80,000.00 for the year. It isn’t the biggest school, with 36 matriculants, but biggest isn’t always best.

    • Jean_Teasdale

      Still has a long way to go to beat Eunice Secondary with 100% university entrance and fees less than R20,000. The only problem is you’d have to live in the Free State to attend!

  • Blapartheid Zulu

    Damn… Check those school fees(private), over 60% of the country doesn’t make that much in a year. Even the public schools are getting expensive. Anc, best party ever. Just keep your people poor and uneducated

    • Jon Low

      Look at the prices of Ferraris — fewer than 5% of the population earn enough to buy one. But that’s no reason not to have them on offer to the fortunate few.

  • Matthew Gill

    St Benedict’s, 97% bachelor’s entrance, 127 matrics who wrote, fees R 100120. Not sure how they don’t beat out some of the top 10.

  • Jon Low


    And choosing a private school is anyone’s right, as they are spending their own discretionary income. It’s no difference to choosing a new Maserati over a new Mazda.

  • Daniel Denissov

    What about Rondebosch Boys’. 97% Bachelor pass rate. +-160 candidates and fees are around R38000 a year surely that’s above Grey Boys at least?

  • Julian Ribeiro

    Thanks for the article. It appears the author has omitted De La Salle Holy Cross College in Johannesburg from the private school list. 100% pass rate for the 29th consecutive year, plus a 99% bachelors pass. And the fees are about half of those of all the other private schools listed…
    Well done to the many public schools on their exceptional performance!

  • Pieter Loftus

    Please! If you are going to write and article firstly get all the information. Stellenberg High School in Bellville also achieved a 100 percent pass
    rate and 83.7 percent of its pupils passed with access to bachelor
    degree. There are more public schools with better results. Then try to look up the Afrikaans spelling or rather use the English names. A hoërskool is a high school, a hoerskool is a school for whores. Please use the correct symbols in future!

    • Jon Low

      Diacritical marks in general (and diareses in particular) are foreign to English and so are usually omitted, despite the clangers so created.

  • Fanandala

    Should have made a “bang for the buck” comparison as well.
    Not that this is the right way to approach your childrens education.

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