Independent and Private Schools

In South Africa, there is no distinction between independent and private schools and the two terms are often used interchangeably. However, the correct legal term is independent school.

Prior to 1996, non-state schools were generally referred to as private schools. The South African Schools Act of 1996 reformed the schooling sector in the country and recognised only two categories of schools: public and independent. All private schools became part of the independent school category. Public schools are state controlled and independent schools are privately governed.

Within the public school category, the Act created a sub-category of “public schools on private property” comprising state schools on private land owned by religious bodies, farmers, mines and forestry companies.

In other countries, independent schools are often a sub-category within the larger category of private schools. Many private schools are not considered independent as they are accountable to another private organisation other than their governing body. If this organisation is a church, the schools are usually classified as parochial schools.

For the same reason, some countries do not consider for-profit private schools as independent if they are owned by a managing or holding company.