ABET Levels and UNISA Qualifications

South Africa has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. Approximately 4.4 million South African adults are illiterate. These individuals can barely read, write, or do basic mathematics. Usually, the situation is a result of incomplete schooling. Some people never went to school because they live in rural areas, and others had to leave school early to work and support their families.


The government created ABET (Adult Basic Education and Training) to help these individuals learn key skills. 


What is ABET? 

ABET is an abbreviation for Adult Basic Education and Training. Adults over the age of 21 cannot attend traditional schools.


However, they may still want to improve their education. ABET provides an opportunity for adults to obtain skills and knowledge in a similar way to how they would have if they had been able to attend school. This empowers people to be able to seek better employment, or even manage their own businesses. 


According to the Constitution, all citizens have the right to both basic and further education. The South African government gave the Department of Education the task of addressing adult illiteracy. Many countries across the globe have illiteracy concerns.



Most of these countries offer Adult Basic Education (ABE), but the Department of Education decided to add the training component. Individuals are able to further their education and get training in certain careers. This decision makes ABET specific to South Africa. ABET provides both educational and practical skills. 

People who do have further schooling can obtain higher qualifications like those offered by UNISA. However, there are differences between UNISA qualifications and ABET courses. UNISA offers degree courses you can study, but they all require that you have completed your Matric.

If you do not have
Matric or want to improve your marks or upskill yourself with Accredited Courses before going to UNISA, you can apply at Matric College. Studying for your Online Matric will allow for you to be able to further your studies where colleges/universities require Matric




Contents of ABET

abet levels unisa


You can decide to do only a few courses in ABET, or do all of the courses available. Most people will start with basic literacy modules. You can always choose to do more courses later. The education and training include: 


  • Language: basic literacy and communicating
  • Mathematics: literacy, advanced mathematics, and mathematical sciences
  • Natural sciences
  • Social sciences
  • Economic and management sciences
  • Human sciences
  • Technology
  • Life orientation
  • Arts and culture

You can also choose to do specific courses that will help you in your career. These options can lead to a better understanding of your work environment. The following courses are available: 


  • SMMEs (small, medium and micro enterprises)
  • Retail and wholesale
  • Travel and tourism
  • Ancillary healthcare
  • Early childhood development
  • Applied agriculture

The Four ABET Levels

ABET consists of four different levels. Higher levels provide more education and training. These levels are equivalent to the General Education and Training (GET) that is taught in schools. 


GET is based on Grade R to Grade 9 (previously called Standard 7). ABET is equal to an NQF Level 1 qualification. The NQF levels are provided by SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority). The courses you complete determine your ABET level. The table below shows the equivalent levels. 


abet level nqf get



The Process to Study ABET

There are very few requirements to study ABET. The most important requirement is that you are older than 21 years of age. You must have a valid identity document or birth certificate, and you must not have had any education past grade 9 level.


Any person with schooling beyond grade 9 no longer qualifies for ABET. Most people who apply for ABET have no schooling at all, or only a few years of formal schooling.


Follow these steps to start your ABET studies:

  • Register with your local ABET centre 
  • Submit your ID document and registration form
  • Pay the required fee at your ABET centre – the fee will vary

The entire registration process can take up to two weeks. You will need to check when courses are available at your chosen centre. Most courses will start at certain times of the year. 

Does UNISA offer ABET courses? 

No, UNISA does not offer ABET courses. UNISA is a tertiary education provider, and they require students to already hold an NQF level 4 qualification before applying to the university. NQF level 4 is the equivalent of a Senior Certificate (Matric).


Admission requirements vary for each qualification, but all require at least Matric. Some qualifications require that students must achieve a certain academic level to apply for admission.

An ABET qualification is equivalent to an NQF level 1. There are three other levels between ABET level 4 and a Matric qualification. This difference means that a person with an ABET certificate cannot apply at UNISA. 

You can still find good employment opportunities with an ABET certificate. Many companies will help you to complete short courses, or offer on-the-job training, such as a learnership. Some people work hard enough to qualify for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). This additional experience may give you entry to some UNISA short learning programmes.

Also Read:
UNISA RPL: An Opportunity to Study

Places to Study ABET Besides UNISA


UNISA does not offer ABET courses, but there are many other options. Every province has several ABET centres. You can contact the Department of Education for your province to find a list of your closest centres. The South African government provides contact numbers for people responsible for ABET in each province. 


abet unisa contact

ABET is accessible to all qualifying South Africans. There are four types of ABET centres available for prospective learners: 




Have a look at each page to see the types of organisations and courses. Some of the centres operate nation-wide, while others are only in one province. The courses provided give an indication of what you could study. 


Looking to the Future

Many people can feel inadequate due to incomplete schooling. Others envisioned a dream career but had to drop out of school. Limited education should not hold you back.


You can get further education and training. UNISA may no longer be an option but ABET will always be there. There are many learning possibilities, all you need to do is to sign up for ABET. Take the first steps towards your education today.


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Last Updated: 18 February 2022