South Africa’s Leading Education Trusts: Their Goals and Purposes

Education trusts have emerged to tackle the many challenges that affect our education system adversely – not only to fund educational initiatives, but also to change our current educational approach and policies.

Education is in crisis. Of the one million + learners who started Grade 1 in 2007, only 51% – about 513 00 learners – wrote matric in 2018. Of those, only 17% obtained bachelor’s pass. The rest – 49% of our school children – dropped out of the system entirely, according to education analyst Nick Spaull.

Every year more and more ill-prepared young people pour into the job market with hardly the faintest hope of finding employment. It has become obvious that action is needed on a massive scale since, without a change in our education system, we are dooming many more to a life of poverty and state dependency. We need new and innovative solutions, based on research, to make the kind of difference that our country needs so desperately.

How are education trusts feeding into the system, and are they making any real difference? Below we examine three prominent education trusts with these questions in mind.

JET (Joint Education Trust)

JET was formed in 1992 to restructure the unequal education system created by the apartheid government. Fourteen companies collectively funded R500 million, which was disbursed in grants to more than 400 service providers in order to develop and strengthen our education system – from early childhood development to adult basic education and training.

Today, JET aims to be Africa’s leading educational ‘think + do’ tank, and has shifted its aim fully from fund disbursement to managing the implementation and evaluation of education interventions. The trust now strives to impact education policy and implementation positively in South Africa and Africa, through rethinking current education systems and engaging in evidence-based research.

JET’s areas of expertise

  • Research services: They initiate their own research projects, and undertake research for clients, conducting qualitative research, surveys, literature reviews, data collection and analysis, learner and teacher assessments, and the development of tests.
  • Education management and implementation: They are involved in both programme design and project management, which may include financial management, recruitment and training of teachers, among other aspects.
  • Monitoring and evaluation: They provide internal and external monitoring and evaluation services to JET and other clients, including government, non-government organisations, donors, foundations, corporates, and multi-lateral institutions.


JET works on various programmes including the MRP Foundation Education Programme, the African Continental Qualifications Framework, and the Anglo American South Africa Education Programme.

E3 (ECubed)

E3 was initially formed in 2011 as the Enabling Entrepreneurship Technical Task Team (EETTT), a small research group piloting and testing new pedagogies or methodologies for activating 21st-century competencies in learners. The trust was established by the Human Resources Development Council at the request of the Deputy President to find a solution to youth unemployment.

During this process they realised that our country needed a completely different perspective on how we educate, and that simply focusing on entrepreneurship was not enough.

So, in 2018, a core team was established and E3 was launched with a new mandate: To reduce poverty and youth unemployment through entrepreneurship, employability and education.

E3’s goals

Together with the Department of Basic Education (DBE), E3 is currently piloting project-based learning methodologies in selected schools. By 2030, this programme should be fully implemented and institutionalised in all government schools. When this happens, the role of E3 will be fulfilled.

Their focus is strongly on project-based learning, a methodology that has proven extremely effective in other countries.

Project-based learning

  • provides a playful learning environment that involves various competencies such as problem-solving and social interaction skills;
  • provides an opportunity to work on a variety of exciting projects that ideally cross the boundaries of several disciplines;
  • connects learners in school with real-life situations and mirrors the sorts of challenges that

they will encounter as they enter the world;

  • provides learners with the 21st-century skills that are necessary for them to be able to find employment or start their own businesses in the future.

Through project-based learning, E3 wants to inspire 100% of learners to complete school and 100% of these learners to study further, get a job, or start their own enterprises.

NECT (The National Education Collaboration Trust)

The NECT was formed in 2013 as a response to the call by the National Development Plan for increased collaboration among stakeholders to improve education outcomes. The trust strengthens partnerships within civil society, and between civil society and government to achieve the country’s national goals for basic education. Their aim is to make sure that all stakeholders are on the same page, and working towards the same goals.

NECT’s programmes

  • District Improvement Programme: This programme aims to improve the quality of teaching and learning and the management of schools, and to replicate successful outcomes and lessons in other districts and provinces.
  • Systemic intervention: NECT addresses key systemic challenges that affect the development of the education system. Through targeted systemic interventions, they seek to strengthen the State and enable it to deliver high-quality public services.
  • Innovation Programme: This programme aims to initiate projects and set up new channels of educational provision to promote innovative thinking, approaches and programmes.
  • Local projects: Through local projects, NECT improves the coordination and effectiveness of social investments in education. They provide guidelines on how to increase the return on investment from social investment in education.
  • Education Dialogue SA: NECT helped to start a group representing educators, academics, businesses, unions, and government to increase open and honest engagements around educational reform.

Corporate Social Responsibility News (CSRNEWS) is South Africa’s leading Corporate Social Responsibility news, media and publishing firm. We create content on social responsibility, helping government, corporates, consultants, NPOs and NGOs to reach their target markets through appropriate, targeted development news.

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