National Science Olympiad™


The National Science Olympiad is one of SAASTA’s flagship projects. Since 2005, the now 56-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 2020 National Science Olympiad

  1. The entry fee for both the National and Natural Science Olympiads is R35.00 per learner per paper.
  2. Learners can enroll for either Physical Sciences or Life Sciences or both subjects
  3. All papers are available in both English and Afrikaans


Following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on Sunday, 15 March 2020 that schools will be closed from 18 March 2020 until after the Easter holidays in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 (Corona Virus), NRF-SAASTA has subsequently decided to postpone the following Olympiads and Competitions until further notice.

National Science Olympiads:

      a) Natural Sciences (Grades 4-6)

      b) Natural Sciences (Grades 7-9)

      c) Life Sciences (Grades 10 – 12)

      d) Physical Sciences (Grades 7)

      e) Astro-Quiz (Grade 7)

Download Entry forms

1.Complete the attached form and return it to SAASTA as soon as possible.

  1. Entry fees: – Early Bird entries: R25 per learner if entered and paid by 5 December 2019. – R35 per learner after 5 December 2019. – Final closing date for entries is 31 January 2020.
  2. Special arrangements can be made for schools/learners that cannot afford the entry fee. Principals should apply before 31 January 2020.
  3. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions: Officials: Ms Zinzi Madiope / Mrs Erna Taljaard

Tel: 012 392 9300

Fax: 086 603 4174


The National Science Olympiad will comprise of two papers, namely Physical Sciences and Life Sciences (Biology).
• Learners may choose to enter for one of the papers or both.
•Minimum of 50% of the paper will be based on High School syllabus (Grade10 to 12).

• Please help motivate your learners to experience the thrill of competing with others from around the country in the National Science Olympiad.
• Help coordinate learners participation in this event.
• Only learners in grade 10, 11, and 12 may enter to compete for a range of exciting prizes.
• Help your learners prepare by accessing Olympiad papers from previous years at (click on “National Science Olympiad”).

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 PROVINCIAL WINNER (Excluding top National Winners)
  • The TOP LEARNER from SADC Schools
  • The TOP LEARNERS will attend a science focus week during September/October vacation in Pretoria

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

Please note:

  1.  All learners should be entered before the closing date.
  2.  National Science Olympiad Life Sciences (Biology) examinations will be written on Thursday 2 April 2020 from 12:00 – 15:00 under the supervision of the teacher at the school (no need to worry about transport).
  3. National Science Olympiad Physical Sciences examinations will be written on Monday 6 April 2020 from 12:00 – 15:00 under the supervision of the teacher at the school (no need to worry about transport)
  4. Results and certificates are sent to schools. Certificates will be awarded to learners obtaining 50% and above
  5. SAASTA will ensure that question papers are distributed to schools before the exam and collected thereafter.


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:

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.
Year 2003200420052006200720082009
Year 20102011201220132014201520162017

For more information

Erna Taljaard

+27 (0)12 392 9300

22 June 2020

Dear DBE Provincial Coordinator/Headmaster/HOD/ Educator


The communication sent out dated 16 March 2020 regarding the postponement of the NRF-SAASTA STEMI Olympiads and competitions has reference.
In view of the impact the COVID-19 had on the schooling system, especially the time for teaching and learning that has been lost and the phased-in approach of re-opening of schools, NRF-SAASTA has taken a decision to cancel the 2020 STEMI Olympiads and Competitions.
Olympiads and competitions affected are:

• Natural Sciences Grades 4-6
• Natural Sciences Grades 7-9
• Astro-Quiz Grade 7
• Science Debates Grades 9-11
• Life Sciences Grades 10-12
• Physical Sciences Grades 10-12

Note: All learners who enrolled for the 2020 Olympiads will be able to participate during 2021.Olympiads using the registration fee already paid in 2020. Learners who have registered for 2020 and cannot participate in 2021 are legible to apply for refund. Schools which have paid registration for a group of learners are encouraged to use the same registration amount to enter learners for the 2021 Olympiads.
We wish you all the best for the rest of the academic year and look forward to the participation of your learners in 2021.

Yours sincerely

Mr Moloko Matlala
Manager: Science Education Division