Previous research from independent advisory firm AlphaWealth found that the cost of top-rate, traditional private school education in South Africa averaged between R1.8m and R8.7m over a child’s entire schooling career. These numbers, while staggering, exclude external necessities such as textbooks and uniforms, and refer only to the actual fees.
How do fees for alternative online options compare?
The majority of premium private schools appear to be offering online classes for current learners during the pandemic, including St John’s College which reportedly moved classes online within 48 hours of the announcement of school closures.
St Stithians stands out for its purely online school offering for learners from Grade 8, which comes in at a reduced cost of R85,000 per annum. With annual high school fees of R154,000 for in person classes, this could amount to an annual saving of over R69,000 for just academics, or over R200,000 when taking into account boarding and entrance fees. The “purpose built online school” offers all academics completed online and on-demand technical support.
Kerry Fynn, CEO of AlphaWealth says “Over time we may see more top-rated private schools adapting to provide purely online offerings in an effort to retain admissions and remain competitive. This could result in premium education becoming more affordable for parents.”
The independent school network Curro, who offer traditional private schooling options across South Africa, also offer Curro Online. In alignment with their relatively affordable school fees, their online offering provides a lower price point for parents looking to try an alternative learning method.
While Curro’s traditional schooling fees (including a monthly fee) can range from around R73,080 (Grade R full-day) to R110,880 (Grade 10-12) annually (Curro Aurora, 2021), their 2021 annual online fees amount to between R44,160 (Grade 4-7) and R50 400 (Grade 8-10 only), including a monthly fee. These fees do not include e-books, learning materials and e-learning devices such as laptops. By opting for more accessibly priced online learning, parents could be making savings of up to R60,480, annually.
“The Covid-19 pandemic hastened a trend that would have arrived eventually, presenting parents with the opportunity to access affordable, quality education for their children in the form of online learning. Companies such as Curro will continue to capitalise on this trend for the foreseeable future,” says Fynn.
Online schooling has been an option since long before the pandemic, with many established virtual offerings providing South African learners with alternatives to traditional schooling.
The employment rate is 30% higher for South Africans with a tertiary qualification, compared to those who only have a matric pass. With the growing popularity of online learning, which learners who completed their schooling virtually may be better equipped for, higher education may become far more accessible, and give learners an edge in the job market.
The move towards greater reliance on new teaching methods and the integration of technology now seems inevitable, with most South African universities now offering some form of online course availability.
“The online learning trend has also extended to tertiary education, which could lead to higher employability, a healthier job market and a more robust economy overall,” concludes Fynn.