Value of Play-Based Learning in Early Childhood Development Education.

On Wednesday, 12th October 2022, Makerere University researchers from the College of Education and External Studies (CEES) hosted, virtually, a symposium on the recent research project that engaged Early Childhood Education stakeholders in North, Central and Eastern Uganda on scaling the school readiness initiative (SSRI) through play-based learning.

The International Development Research Centre Canada (IDRC) funded program titled  “Strengthening school and community capacities in scaling school readiness through play-based pedagogies in pre and primary education.” envisions generation of knowledge and evidence to strengthen Early Childhood Education, strengthening curriculum and capabilities for teachers in Early Childhood Education development for Uganda and Zambia to ensure a strong education foundation for learners and promotion of Play Based learning in learners between 0 to 8 years.

While opening the symposium, Professor Anthony Mugagga the principal College of Education and External Studies (CEES) Makerere University shared his disappointment from some professionals who under look early childhood education teachers and consider them failures. It is on this basis that ten years ago, he started efforts to better Early childhood education in Uganda through research.

“I am happy that 10 years down the road, the College of Education admits students of PhDs, Masters and Diplomas of Early Childhood Education,” added Prof Mugagga.

He said the country has only about 5% graduate students as early child hood education givers, saying most of the caregivers are from S4 or Primary 7 students, a thing he said must change if we are to improve ECE. “Teachers who are constrained in learning cannot do a good job teaching the young children,” Prof. Mugagga said. He decried the policy of administering interwies for children joining primary one, saying it has forced teachers to teach pre-primary children with the primary curriculum in an effort to ensure they pass the interviews.

Prof. Mugagga concluded his remarks by thanking IDRC for funding this incredible study and the research team for the dedicated work done. He assured the team of his support in promotion of play-based learning in ECD centers in Uganda.

While giving his remarks, the Dean School of Education and the program Principal Investigator in Uganda Professor Bwanika Mulumba noted how the benchmarking for ECDE had been neglected in Uganda concentrating much on higher Education hence a challenge in production of unskilled learners in writing and reading for learners in tertiary institutions.

Professor Bwanika added that Ugandan schools and parents give children less time to play always cautioning them on academics and homework which hinders children’s cognitive skills and emotional wellbeing in response to learning. He hailed IDRC for the funding and the Zambia Open Community schools (ZOCs) that hosted the research team to benchmark in Zambia for the assessment tools developed to promote Play Based learning in Zambia.

Mrs. Cleopatra Muma the Executive Director ZOCs emphasized that the program is based on schools’ readiness for children, children’s readiness for school and parents’ readiness to work with schools in educating children. The project in Zambia has solved challenges of limited access to quality ECDE service especially among marginalized rural communities and inadequate knowledge and skills to ECD workforce hence enriching cross learning and strengthening linkage between centers of knowledge, government and all stakeholders.

While sharing experience on Zambia’s preparedness in response to ECDE, Dr, Edward Kansiime a research team member praised Zambia and ZOCs for moving swiftly and steadily in benchmarking and preparing for early childhood education play based learning where learning centers have equipped demarcated playing grounds on top of a well-developed digital assessment tool teachers use in guiding learners on their able gadgets.

Dr. Nancy Nabiryo an English and Literature specialist from School of Education Makerere University presented Findings from a systematic review of play-based learning in national ECD frameworks and baseline survey on play-based learning in ECDE centers in Uganda.

It is evident that parents and schools are not aware that children can learn effectively through play and play based learning has not been benchmarked and neither has it been much encouraged.

The government has not recognized the role of an effective ECDE in tertiary Education, Dr. Nabiryo ended by calling on government not to only regulate but to assiduously fund, benchmark and encourage play based learning across ECD centers in the country and also help out teachers through training to understand rights of the child and values of play in Early Childhood Education.

Dr. Alfred Buluma and Mr. Edward Kansiime also presented their projects on Infrastructure in Play Based Learning and Play based learning ECDE teachers ‘pedagogical practices respectively where learners were encouraged to use their own bodies and materials in learning. Both studies at least found that learners are using actions and the five senses in learning.

The project also captured gaps in ECDE that need immediate intervention which include pupils singing while sitting which limits full body activity, most ECDE teachers are not well trained, congested classrooms by desks and too much play materials where some are actually not used, interpersonal skills and personality traits of curiosity and creativity not fully encouraged.

The project team thinks that it is prudent if workshops were put in place to sensitize teachers, parents, policy makers and implementers. Also, organizing of Inservice teacher training, provision of an ECDE learning framework to some of the schools at least in every region and working alongside the inspectorate of Education for building linkage and sustainability of play-based learning in ECDE.

The symposium on scaling school readiness initiative (SSRI) through play-based learning brought together education enthusiasts from universities of Uganda and across the world. It is a joint partnership among Makerere University, University of Zambia, University of Arizona and the Zambia Open Community Schools organization funded by the International Development Research Centre Canada.