After parents and students were forced to turn to online schools during the Covid-19 lockdown, many now prefer them to bricks-and-mortar schools. Here are a few of the reasons for the growth of virtual schools in South Africa.
Although online schools existed in South Africa before the country went into a Covid-19 lockdown, it’s undeniable that the pandemic brought them to the fore and allowed them to become mainstream options for schooling. Home schooling in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and all across South Africa has become more and more popular, with accredited courses online becoming a widely preferred way for students to matriculate.
Teneo Online School has experienced this rise in popularity. After starting with 85 students in 2018, the number of students increased to 5400 in 2020, the first year of the pandemic. By 2022 they had 9000 students and was registering 60 to 100 students per day for the 2023 academic year.
This makes Teneo one of the largest schools in the world and a pioneer in many regards. For example, Teneo has the widest subject choice in the country, provides schooling in two languages from Grade R to 12, and offers 100% live teaching by accredited professional teachers.
Two socio-economic factors driving the growth of online schools are semigration and concerns about the standard of education in government schools. Stats SA predicts that more than 620 000 people will move to the Western Cape in the next five years due to socio-economic reasons, and that 180000 of them will move to Hermanus. This clearly will create a problem of supply and demand, which is easily solved by online schools, with online school applications being open to a far greater volume of students.
A large percentage of government schools don’t provide the required standard of education, resulting in a huge skills gap in South Africa. Private schools are unaffordable for middle-class South Africans, and online schools have stepped into the gap by offering value for money education at more affordable fees.
Even without these practical reasons, there are four important reasons why parents and students are embracing online schools.
Quality of teaching
Class size frequently is a problem in South Africa’s government schools, something that isn’t a factor at reputable online schools. The level of personal attention is supported by the calibre of the teachers: all are registered with the South African Council for Educators (SACE) and are frequently asked to mark Matric’s final examination papers. This may be one of the reasons South Africa’s top matriculant for 2022 came from Teneo – for the second year in a row.
The school’s standard of education is the same as that of “normal” schools, if not higher. Matsipa, a Teneo parent, posted on HelloPeter: “It is an exceptional experience to be a part of Teneo. The teachers are patient, acknowledge every child’s individuality and provide good guidance whilst nurturing them to be the best possible versions of themselves. My son has learned to work independently navigating the system and has blossomed into a goal-orientated, confident, compassionate, competent young man.”
Preparing students for the demands of the workplace
Technology has become part and parcel of corporate and similar professional jobs. The best onlines schools prepare students for this by making them comfortable with receiving instruction and delivering work online. It also teaches them how to act in a professional manner with superiors (teachers) and peers (classmates).
Thanks to technology, eschools can record and pre-record lessons so that students can go over them as many times as they need to when doing revision. Pre-recorded lessons also form the backbone of Teneo’s Live + Recorded School which gives students the flexibility to learn at times that suit them.
This provides good learning ground for work where online meetings and webinars are commonplace, and time management is a vital soft skill.
Working from home during the Covid pandemic has shown many people the benefits of being able to manage their days around their own priorities. It is no different for students.
Teneo’s Live and Recorded School Format is a good example of an online school that offers those who are pursuing other personal goals the flexibility they need. This hybrid model combines live and pre-recorded lessons to allow students to participate in scheduled live lessons according to a daily timetable, and for the other half of the day’s coursework, watch pre-recorded lessons. All live lessons are recorded to revisit later.
(Teneo’s Live School Format has a daily programme of live lessons, just like a conventional school, for those who prefer more structure.) All live lessons are recorded to revisit later.
Value for money
A 2022 analysis of enrolment data at Teneo Online School found that 94% of parents felt that online schooling provides better value for money than traditional bricks-and-mortar schools.
Government schools’ fees, although affordable, aren’t all-inclusive and parents have to buy uniforms and stationery out of their own pocket, and pay for things like transport, outings and meals. Several of these additional expenses don’t apply in an online school.