The cost of sending a child to school in South Africa vs the world

A new report by banking group HSBC has found that parents around the world can expect to spend anywhere between $8,000 and $200,000 educating a child from primary school through to the end of university – depending on location and level of state subsidy.

The bank’s findings were based off a limited survey, taking responses from over 8,400 parents in 15 countries and territories, taking the average reported contribution by parents towards education, including state subsidies.

It found that parents contribute an average of $44,221 ($67,502 if paid-for, $32,647 if state-funded) towards all aspects of their child’s education costs from primary school up to the end of university – including school/university tuition fees, educational books, transport and accommodation.

Parents in Hong Kong ($132,161), followed by the UAE ($99,378) and Singapore ($70,939), contribute the most, on average – with fully paid for education in Hong Kong (with no subsidies) reaching $211,371.

The average cost is split as such:

  • Average: $44,221
  • Primary school – $12,820
  • Secondary school – $15,111
  • University/college – $16,290

While South Africa is not covered in the HSBC report, data recently compiled by provides a point of comparison, particularly when considering the only African country covered by HSBC, Egypt.

HSBC found that the average Egyptian parent contributed $16,863 towards their child’s entire education (including college). ExpatFinder’s data showed that the average annual cost was $3,320 – or $39,840 for the 12 years of basic education (excluding college).

In both reports, Egypt was found to be on the lower end of the scale in terms of cost of education (ranking 14th out 15 by HSBC, and 30th out of 35 in Africa in the ExpatFinder report).

The two reports also come close at the top-end, where fully paid-for education in Hong Kong in the HSCB report ($211,371) was on a similar level seen in the ExpatFinder report ($221,580).

According to ExpatFinder, South Africa was seen as one of the most expensive places to educate a child on the African continent.

South Africa ranked 62nd out of the 117 countries surveyed by ExpatFinder – 9th highest in Africa – with the annual cost of tuition fees being US$7,090 (R92,600), the group said. The total cost per child (educated from 6 to 18 years old) comes to US$85,084 (R1.1 million).

HSBC’s data is based on self-reported contributions to education – that is, how much parents report contributing towards tuition, books, transport and accommodation – including state or other subsidies.

ExpatFinder’s data is based on a comprehensive market survey of 1,576 international schools (ie, data from the schools themselves) across 117 countries.

The table below compares the select findings of the self-reported (HSBC) and school (ExpatFinder) data, showing how big a role education subsidies can play.

Country Average parental contribution, US$ (HSBC) Average cost per child, US$ (ExpatFinder)
Hong Kong 132 161 221 580
Singapore 70 939 280 404
USA 58 464 247 500
China 42 892 309 840
UK 24 862 240 540

In South Africa, public vs private education is often under the microscope, with much debate over the quality of education in the public sector and the exorbitant fees seen in the private sector.

A recent comparison into public vs private school costs found that the latter can easily reach well over R100,000 per year, while the former is far cheaper at between R20,000 to R40,000 per year.

A new wave of private companies in the education sector (Curro, SPARK, AdvTech) are targeting this lower-end market, with analysts expecting new private school offerings in the R15,000 to R30,000 per annum bracket.

Read: A look at South Africa’s most expensive school which costs R412,000 annually

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The cost of sending a child to school in South Africa vs the world