South Africa sees big move towards online schools – with new rules to come

Private, publicly listed school and university group AdvTech has backed government plans to regulate online schools in South Africa.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga recently announced that her ministry is developing a new framework to help formalize the rise of online schools in South Africa.

“Over the past few years, online school provision in South Africa has grown significantly. This continues to be the case, with an even greater increase in the number of new schools coming online following the introduction of pandemic response measures in 2020,” said Chaile Makaleng: Head of Compliance and the regulation of schools within the AdvTech group.

“While it is easy enough for parents to assess the legitimacy of a physical school and escalate problems where they occur, this has not been the case with online education, which carries the risk that families will be misled by ostensibly exciting new offerings, which are not built on the foundation of excellence and integrity that all students deserve,” he said.

Makaleng said the Department of Basic Education (DBE) framework for virtual schools, proposed by the government, should also help address concerns about so-called flying evening schools and online schools that do not are unable to provide quality education.

“Although in its infancy, we appreciate the DBE’s long-awaited regulatory support for a rapidly growing alternative to institutional types of teaching and learning in this country. We therefore urge the ministry to act quickly to provide the required regulatory certainty regarding the creation and maintenance of online schools. »

According to the AdvTech Group, some of the issues that now need to be addressed include:

  • The process and timeline for moving from commentary guidelines to regulations and even legislation.
  • Details related to how registration, reporting and quality assurance like accreditation will occur, and this includes the roles of provincial and district offices where these schools are not truly “situated” in the districts.
  • The link between these schools and higher education in South Africa.
  • Clarity on the impact on students at home and their support centers, and families who still choose to stay out of formal school education (online or physical) will be impacted.

Students must also be able to move between online and in-person schools, and between homeschooling and formal schools of both types, without being negatively impacted by the lack of clarity about the status of schools and programs and organizations. assessment, Makaleng said.

“Given that many online schools follow international programs leading to international examinations and certification, measures should be in place to monitor the integrity of the type of program offered by providers, to ensure that parents and unsuspecting students do not end up with an unrecognized certification. in our higher education system,” Makaleng added.

“On the other hand, with regards to CAPS alignment and mapping, online schools should be expected to achieve key program outcomes and it is not yet clear how this will be monitored by Umalusi and others in the context of the rights and responsibilities of independent schools.”

ADvTECH also believes that, as with in-person schools, teachers in online schools must be carefully vetted, as required by the Children’s Act, in that all teachers must be officially authorized to be on the National Register of Schools. Sex Offenders (NRSO) and the National Child Protection Registry (NCPR).

All teachers must be academically and/or professionally qualified and duly registered with SACE to ensure the integrity and security of online teaching and learning.

Makaleng said all online schools should also be legally registered as a corporation or other legal entity and should be required to establish and belong to a recognized association of online schools, especially since this mode of formal education is new to South Africa.

Read: New rules being developed for online schools in South Africa

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