The National Science Olympiad is one of SAASTA’s flagship projects. Since 2005, the now 53-year-old project has offered learners in grades 10-12 an exciting opportunity to compete in science with fellow learners from SADC countries such as Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

The competition comprises an annual examination in science (Physical and Life Sciences). The top national performers win all-expenses-paid trips to the London International Youth Science Forum and the Australian National Youth Science Forum.

The main aim of the competition is to identify talent, to encourage excellence in science education and to stimulate interest in the sciences. It seeks to inspire young people to consider careers in science and technology.

Traditionally, during the June/July vacation, a group of 100 learners who excel or demonstrate potential in the Olympiad examination are invited to participate in a Science Focus Week consisting of stimulating lectures, excursions, industry visits and other fun events. Learners from different categories who demonstrate exceptional performance are selected to attend either the London International Youth Science Forum during July/August or the Australian National Youth Science Forum in January of each year.

During the focus week a high profile award giving ceremony is organised and key stakeholders from government, science councils, and the business sector are invited. Next year the National Science Focus Week will be during the June/July vacation and a high profile award giving ceremony will be held in the last week of June.


Enter the 2019 National Science Olympiad

  • Entry forms will be available on the 1st of October 2018.


Prizes and awards

Over the years, prizes and awards were given to schools and learners during the Science Olympiad Award Giving Ceremony. During the past three years, over 30 awards in different categories have been made to deserving learners and schools each year. Some of the main categories are:

  • Top three national learners per stream (Physical Science and Life Science)
  • Top learner from a previously disadvantaged school per stream (Physical Science and Life Science)
  • Top girl learner per stream
  • Top girl learner from a previously disadvantaged school
  • Top learner per grade per stream (Grade 10 and 11)
  • Top three learners from SADC countries (Namibia, Zimbabwe and Lesotho)
  • Top schools with most participants
  • Top schools within Harmony areas of operations.

Learners could win:

  • iPods
  • iPads
  • Laptops
  • Book vouchers
  • The top 100 learners from different categories will attend a science focus week during June/July vacation in Pretoria.
  • A trip to attend the International Youth Science Forum in London or the Australian National Youth Science Forum


Milestones and challenges

Over the years, a number of milestones were achieved through the National Olympiad, in particular:


Participation of learners in the National Science Olympiad during the past nine years has increased significantly as indicated below:

Year  2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Participants 9117 9614 13971 17538 15538 19438 23364
Year  2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Participants 20546 24624 22546 30764 29115 16573 30651 37050


The significant increase was among others due to:

  • Our aggressive marketing strategy that enabled us to reach more schools in rural areas that had not been reached before;
  • Collaborations between the Department of Education and provincial level departments through Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST) coordinators; and
  • Increased support by our partners in the business sector, in particular our main sponsor from 2009, Harmony Gold Mining Pty Company, as well as our previous sponsors, Mailtronic,Skynet, and Xahumba.

Identifying and Nurturing Talent

In line with the Department of Science and Technology’s Youth into Science Strategy and the Department of Education’s National Strategy for Mathematics and Science and Technology, the National Science Olympiad identifies and nurtures talent in SET. This approach contributes in increasing the human capital in the critical areas of Science, Engineering and Technology.

This is being achieved through:

  • Our consistent effort to expose learners to international events such as the London International Youth Science Forum (LIYSF) and the Australian Youth Science Forum;
  • Hosting of Science Focus Week for top learners based on the Olympiad examination results;
  • Our efforts to expose learners to the SET work environment through visits to industries, science councils and higher education institutions;
  • Establishing an examination steering committee that comprises reputable professionals.

Related Pages

Download past papers

2010 | 2009 | 2007 | 2005/6 | 2004/5

2017 | 2015 | 2014 | 2010 | 2009 | 2005/6 | 2004 | 2003

2017 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2006 | 2005


20162011 | 2010 | 2009


Chemistry | Life Sciences | Physics


Erna Taljaard
Call +27 (0)12 392 9337