We #Play2Learn with The LEGO Foundation to help children build critical life-skills and shape a better future.
A group of pupils at Mafuiane Primary School follow the movements of their teacher closely, as she uses her whole body to “draw” a letter. She is spelling out her name.
The children stand in a large semi-circle facing the blackboard and their teacher Albertina. Many try not to laugh out loud. “Who wants to spell their name next?” asks Albertina, and nearly every hand waves back at her excitedly.
A boy named Robson is chosen. Standing in the center of the group with his hands on his hips, he wiggles elaborately. The rest of the children copy his movements as they yell out the letters, R.O.B.S.O.N! Smiling and laughing, the children can barely contain their excitement to take their turn. As school reformers in Mozambique push to expand play-based learning to the entire primary school curriculum, more pupils are being exposed to lessons like these and are rediscovering the joy of learning.
Studies have shown that a play-based education improves cognitive learning outcomes, because play is associated with positive experiences for children and it’s contributing to the engagement and academic readiness of younger children to participate in more complex curricula later in life.
Due to gaps in provision and supervision of early childhood learning, children in Mozambique do not have access to pre- and Kindergarten education. As a result, young children in poorly funded public schools are reading and grasping basic mathematics later than their peers, resulting in low academic expectations and outcomes overall, as well as further disparity between poor and middle-class students.
Play-based learning is doing much to close this inequality gap as the practice helps children learn faster, understand more easily and retain knowledge, while enjoying and staying in school. Mafuiane Primary School’s Head Teacher, Costa Simao, said that at the beginning of the year, every class was full and the level of truancy had decreased.
After two years of play-based learning, most pupils had made academic gains which put them at par with their peers countrywide.
In Mozambique, the impetus for quality primary education has the long term goal of influencing the quality of University entry students from public schools, who presently lack the skills to evaluate, analyze and synthesize information at the level of students who begin formal education earlier. Play-based learning is engagement-oriented to actively encourage participation and teamwork.
In Teacher Katia’s Grade 2 class, the students are divided into groups to play a mathematics relay race. Each group huddles with their heads together before one team member races to the blackboard to solve the next addition and subtraction equation. With each correct answer, the children win a point for their team and cheer loudly. When they get it wrong, the next team takes their turn. By the end of the lesson, the students have solved increasingly complex addition and subtraction equations largely without assistance from the teacher.
Dino, who observes whether teachers are implementing the curriculum, was also trained in play-based learning by Right To Play. He attributes academic improvement to the increased enthusiasm and interaction of the teachers with their students.
“I see that teachers are helping students acquire knowledge,” he says. “I see that there is more inclusiveness in the classroom and teachers aim to reach all their students equally. They are more confident during assessment and open to suggestions for improvement.”
Currently, the Ministry of Education-supported initiative has seen over 1500 Grade 1-3 teachers trained in play-based learning, complete with a games manual to support them in planning their lessons. The government hopes this new approach will help create favorable conditions for the increased academic attainment of young children with improved outcomes in reading, writing and mathematics as well as the confidence to sustain this foundational learning into the future.