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Educational attainment, South Africa

Codes and Frequencies

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      class Educza:public Editor {

    Educza(VarPointer varInfo) : Editor(varInfo) {}
    void edit() {

        long a = getRecoded();
        switch (dataSet) {
        case dataset_id::za2016a:
            if (ZA2016A_0404() >= 0 && ZA2016A_0404() <= 3)
                a = 999;




EDUCZA indicates the person's educational attainment in South Africa in terms of the level of schooling completed and the number of years completed at that level.

Comparability — General

South Africa experienced changes in their basic education system over time:

  • The most recent structure is 4-3-3-3, including 7 years in primary (grades 0-6) and 6 years in secondary (grades 7-12), with the first ten years of compulsory education. Grade 0 or R (reception) is the last year of pre-school, which is offered in some schools.
  • The preceding structure was 4-3-3-2, comprising 7 years in primary (grades 1-2 and standards 1-5) and 5 years in secondary (standards 6-10).
  • Before the 1980's, the structure was 4-4-3-2, with 8 years in primary (sub-standards A-B and standards 1-6) and 5 years in secondary (forms 1-5).

A generic structure with 13 years for basic education has been used in EDUCZA (from year 0 to 12). The source variable for each South Africa sample includes 12 to 13 years in basic education (depending whether grade 0 was distinguished or not) and identifies equivalence across education systems. See the enumeration text for the precise labels that existed on the census forms.

There are some minor differences in the categories identified across samples. The level of detail within higher education differs as does the recording of diplomas and certificates around the year 12 marker. Higher education is divided into two qualification types (undergraduate and postgraduate) offered by colleges, universities, universities of technology (old technikons), and private institutions. Among persons with higher education, the proportion of responses in ''bachelor's degree and diploma'' changed significantly between 2007 and 2016.

  • Bachelor's degree: universities award this degree to students who complete three or four years of study.
  • Bachelor's degree and diploma (higher diploma): colleges and universities of technology (technikons) offer a higher diploma to students completing a four-year program.
  • Honors degree or post-graduate diploma: students with a bachelor's degree can pursue it for one year, meeting entrance requirements to master's degree programs.
  • Post higher diploma: offered by technikons.
  • Higher degree: including a master's degree (1-2 years) and a doctorate degree (at least 2 years).

Technical and vocational education is offered through certificates and diplomas at different levels. The 2011 and 2016 samples identify National Technical Certificates (NTC) and other similar qualifications ranging between levels 1 and 6, while the 2007 sample ranging between levels 1 and 3. The three levels of the NTC are roughly equivalent to grades 10-12. The NTC level 1 to 3 were separately identified in the source variables for 2011 and 2016, but combined with their equivalent grades in 2007. All samples distinguish certificates or diplomas earned after having completed year 12 or less than year 12.

The 1996, 2007, and 2011 censuses only asked the educational attainment question of persons in private households.


  • South Africa 1996: Persons age 5+
  • South Africa 2001: Persons age 5+
  • South Africa 2007: Persons age 5+ in private households
  • South Africa 2011: Persons age 5+ in private households
  • South Africa 2016: Persons age 4+


  • South Africa: 1996, 2001, 2007, 2011, 2016