Balancing Act Assessing the Quality and Financial Viability of Low-fee Independent Schools

Low-fee independent schools (LFIS) are a growing phenomenon in South Africa. In many parts of the country, they offer an alternative choice of education to poor communities, they address the lack of public schools, offer access to better quality learning, and fulfill parents’ desire for schools with a religious affiliation or alternative philosophies not provided for by public schools. In South Africa, as elsewhere, there is growing interest from investors and donors to support these schools or invest in them. In exploring the relationship between quality, fee-level and financial viability in LFIS, CDE undertook a comparative study of pertinent international and local quality assurance processes and instruments. This included five international school assessment frameworks, 10 national frameworks for state schools, 13 private international school instruments and nine South African public and independent school instruments. This report provides an overview of the key issues involved in assessing the quality and viability of LFIS in South Africa and other developing countries.