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South Africa to host International Play Conference to boost learning outcomes in basic education, 08 January 2019



[Johannesburg, South Africa, 08/01/2019] - As the 2019 school year starts tomorrow, more than 1million children in South Africa officially begin their school years as families send their little ones to schools around the country.

Fast-paced social, economic and technological change is re-defining our world why the education for these children needs to prepare them for navigating in an uncertain and complex future where 21

st century skills such as problem solving, critical thinking and creativity will be crucial for success. To prepare our learners for the future there is a dire need in many school systems to address the delivery of curriculums and teaching methods that challenges the traditional approaches why early childhood centers and schools will need to use different approaches in educating these children as they begin their lifelong journey with learning and education to help foster these skills and tap into the natural love of learning by children  

An approach that is increasingly becoming popular in the early years of primary school curriculum is play-based learning. From the earliest moments of infancy, children have an amazing natural ability to learn about the world through play and a growing body of research has shown that play-based learning can improve a child’s academic performance and personal development by tapping into their inherent capabilities such as building on their curiosity and actively engaging them in their own learning process.

Playing also helps children to learn skills that are predictive of later academic achievement. For example, research shows that construction play is related to the development of spatial visualization skills – and these skills are strongly connected to math skills and problem-solving. It can also propel a child’s growth and position him/her for success in the fourth industrial revolution by teaching them skills required in the 21st century and beyond. This is consistent with the convention of the rights of the children to play, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well the NDP and the 27 goals as articulated in the Basic Education Sector Plan [year – year].

In response to the demand of the 21st century skills, the Department of Basic Education in partnership with UNICEF South Africa, the LEGO Foundation and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) is currently implementing an initiative that focuses on the role of play-based learning in improving quality of early learning under the auspices of POWER OF PLAY: A learning Tool for a Powerful Future Programme.  In response to the demand of the 21st century skills, the Department of Basic Education, UNICEF, the LEGO Foundation and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) have partnered up to advance the understanding and use of learning through play in schools and homes.

In many school systems there is a dire need to address the delivery of curriculums and teaching methods that challenges the traditional approaches. Whilst addressing this need, learning through play also equips children with the ability to tap into their inherent capabilities such as building on their curiosity, while also helping them develop 21

st century skills (e.g. problem solving, creativity, critical thinking, citizenship, etc.). This will lay the foundation needed for lifelong learning and the ability to successfully navigate an uncertain and complex world.

The Department of Basic Education, together with its partners, will be hosting the international Africa Play Conference in Pretoria in February.  Ministers of Education, experts and policy makers, high-level representatives from development cooperation agencies, private sector, academia, parent-teacher associations, civil society, youth organizations and the media from around the world will converge for this important gathering.

The objectives of the Africa Play Conference are to facilitate an understanding and commitment of policy-makers and influencers on the important role of PLAY in preparing children for the opportunities of the 21st century and the achievement of sustainable development at a national and global level.  The other key objectives of this Conference are:

(a)   Ensuring that the importance of play, supported by evidence, shapes a national commitment that will drive play as an essential part of children’s learning, development and well-being in the national policy dialogue, development and programme implementation;

b)    Reflecting on the adequacy of national policies and programmes against national and international evidence to prepare children for the opportunities of the 21st century;

c)     Facilitating a critical dialogue between science, policy and practice on advancing children’s learning and preparedness for new opportunities and challenges of the 21st century; and

d)    Supporting policy-makers, through evidence, to define their role and space in promoting PLAY-based learning.

The South African government has taken the lead in ensuring that there is universal coverage with regard to the Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector.  “The reality confronting us today is that, we can no longer teach the 21

st century learners using the run-of-the-mill 20

th century pedagogical methods.  The future beckons, and that future is digital – the fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.  It is an exciting world where play itself is transformed to play a role in the cognitive development of the child,” said Mrs. Angie Motshekga, the Minister of Basic Education.

John Goodwin, CEO of the LEGO Foundation commented: “For the past 10 years we have worked closely with the Department of Basic Education and UNICEF in South Africa to bring the transformative power of play into children’s lives to help them become creative, engaged, lifelong learners and I am honored and excited to be co-hosting the first conference in Africa exploring learning through play.”

There is recognition that in order to teach and assess 21

st century skills, there needs to be a shift towards active approaches that are congruent with how children learn skills or how to demonstrate them.

What is play-based learning?

By nature children are driven to play and play-based learning builds on this innate ability by using play as a setting for learning. In this milieu children are free to experiment, explore, challenge, analyse, tackle and solve problems using their imagination and through play. Play based learning means the learner has space to initiate activities while the teacher plays a supporting role. Teachers are expected to encourage learning through an engagement that challenges the learners to go beyond the limit. Play-based learning encourages innovative, it stretches the learner’s thinking skills and takes it to a higher level. The play-based model is fun, exciting, enjoyable, and competitive and makes children want to explore and discover new things all the time.      

“In an increasingly complex, changing, competitive, and interconnected world, we all want to ensure that our children gain the life skills needed to be successful in life. Experts worldwide, acknowledge that today’s children need more than the traditional 3-Rs (i.e. reading, writing and arithmetic) to prepare for 21

st century opportunities. 

As Government, we are paving the way towards the 21

st century opportunities, by preparing our children in the four critical areas, namely the 4-Cs –Collaboration and teamwork; Creativity and imagination; Critical thinking; and Communication,” Minister Motshekga said. The three-day Africa Play conference will feature exhibitions in addition to the contributions from various speakers from many parts of the world.


Media Enquiries:    Department of Basic Education - Elijah Mhlanga – 083 580 8275

                                   Lego Foundation – Alice Msibi – 066 476 6923

                                UNICEF – Sandra Bisin – 061 418 7486

                                ADEA - Stefano De Cupis, (+225) 2026 4261,


About the LEGO Foundation: The LEGO Foundation aims to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow; a mission that it shares with the LEGO Group. The LEGO Foundation is dedicated to building a future where learning through play empowers children to become creative, engaged, lifelong learners. Its work is about re-defining play and re-imagining learning. In collaboration with thought leaders, influencers, educators and parents the LEGO Foundation aims to equip, inspire and activate champions for play. Learn more on

About ADEA: The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) is a forum for policy dialogue. It is a partnership bringing together African policymakers in charge of education, science and technology; development partners; researchers and education technical experts. ADEA contributes to the empowerment of African countries to develop quality education and training systems that respond to the countries' emergent needs and drive social and economic transformation sustainably.














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Written By: DBE Webmaster
Date Posted: 1/8/2019
Number of Views: 973

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