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The Department of Education has defined ABET as follows:

Adult basic education and training is the general conceptual foundation towards lifelong learning and development, comprising of knowledge, skills and attitudes required for social, economic and political participation and transformation applicable to a range of contexts. ABET is flexible, developmental and targeted at the specific needs of particular audiences and, ideally, provides access to nationally recognised certificates.

The concept of ABET is uniquely South African. In the English-speaking world, ABE means Adult Basic Education. South Africa added the T, for Training.

One of the deepest critical perceptions of adult education in South Africa, especially on the part of labour unions and business, was that education had little application in life and work, while training meant drilling in routine jobs with no attention to underlying knowledge and values.

ABET grew out of adult literacy work. Its adoption was the result of political struggle informed by research. In spite of fine achievements of adult literacy work in the struggle, literacy alone was not considered adequate to support real social transformation. It was meant to offer an appropriately adult route to a general education aimed at making a significant improvement in quality of life.

ABET includes training in:

• language, literacy and communication
• mathematical literacy, mathematics and mathematical sciences
• natural science
• arts and culture
• life orientation
• technology
• human and social science
• economic and management science.

ABET also offers courses covering:

• small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs)
• wholesale and retail
• travel and tourism
• applied agriculture
• early childhood development
• ancillary health care.


There are 4 main types of training centres for ABET learners:

  1. Government
  2. Individual   – Organisations specialising in providing ABET training for the individual
  3. Business – Organisations specialising in providing ABET training for company employees
  4. Skills Education Training Authorities (SETAs)

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