The South African government's current education policy for pre-primary schooling in South Africa is termed 'ECD' or Early Childhood Development, which covers children from birth until 7 years of age. These programs include a wide range of services directed at helping families and communities from all provinces and from every background provide an education for their children.
There are two main categories of ECD institutions: public and independent. Public institutions are funded by provincial government departments of education and consist of pre-primary school services and programs for children aged 3 - 5 years.
Public schools are separated into three categories:
- A creche, which is a full-day care facility for children from 3 months until 7 years of age. They are usually open from 7am-5pm and provide care and stimulation for kids whose parents are at work. The staff in a creche don't necessarily have to be qualified, but usually have completed some form of training program.
- A nursery school, which provides a pre-school education for children over 2 years of age, where teachers have to be qualified, and runs between 8am-12.30pm
- An Educare Centre, which not only offers education at creche and nursery school levels, but also provides health and welfare services to pre-school children.
Independent institutions offer a much greater variety of services and options. These are funded through parent's fees, community fundraising or material donations from businesses, with some or no governmental support. All independent pre-primary schools must however be registered with the Department of Education in order to be legally in operation.
Of the independent ECD schools and programs, community-operated day care and nursery schools, and independent primary schools constitute the two largest groups of providers.
At the end of their pre-primary education, a Reception year (Grade 0 or Grade R) is usually attended by children of 5-6 years of age - it is a preparatory year for primary school Grade 1, where a child turning 7 years of age in that year may begin their primary school career. It is not compulsory, but is offered at most nursery schools.
Your options are much more varied at an independent pre-primary school. Differing curriculums such as Montessori, Waldorf, and religious-orientated schools are offered at these schools and may perhaps be a better option for your child.