In developing countries, private schools – particularly at secondary level – have grown phenomenally to meet the demand for education. In South Africa, while independent schooling has also increased steadily, it remains a fairly small sector. Some argue that private schools are no longer dominated by elite institutions and offer access to quality education to learners even in poor communities where public schools are either unavailable or of poor quality. Others claim that such schools cater to a privileged few, lead to greater class inequalities and work against the nation-building project. This article draws on empirical research to show that there is little evidence to support either side of this argument. Private provision of education in South Africa is driven more by differentiated demand than by the excess demand, with widespread public schooling available. The debate is, in the end, an ideological one.
Southern African Review of Education (SARE), (2008) 14 (3) 122-136