Osama Ukwishatse, a Primary Five pupil at Remera Catholique II in Kigali says he finds the traditional system of learning exclusively on the chalk board hectic and boring. He thinks that interactive play-based learning is more enriching and produces better results.
He says that some subjects like mathematics that are hard to understand can be handled better if teachers incorporate play when teaching them.
Like Ukwishatse, education experts affirm that the play-based learning methodology is a powerful tool for studying that inspires positive values through games.
Nehemiah Bacumuwenda, the curriculum specialist in charge of pedagogical norms at Rwanda Education Board, says, the play based learning methodology was integrated in the curriculum in 2014 with the launch of the New Competence-based Curriculum to be used by the pre and primary teachers. He says 64 public schools have already started using the methodology.
He says one of the reasons of adopting the system is to ensure that students in pre and primary school levels are prepared from an early age to be more interactive.
“For instance, when a child is taught how to purify water, it’s a journey through which they will be able to link theory to practice. Thus the child will gradually develop skills of logical thinking,” he says.
Athanase Nahimana, the country director, Right to Play, an organization working with volunteers and partners to use sports and play to enhance childhood development, says play-based learning is a participatory guided approach which is grounded on the power of sports, games and creative play which enhances learning, especially in pre and primary levels of education.
“It’s a unique approach and methodology that brings wonderful results to the students and we are working with Rwanda Education Board on how to take the campaign to the private schools,” he says.
Nahimana emphasizes that play-based learning has a great impact in shaping the behavior of children.
“Play-based learning improves learning, imagination and ignites passion at a tender age,” he says.
Piama Nyirangwabije, a teacher trainer, says integrating play-based learning boosts school attendance and reduces school drop out rates.
She however says teachers need more materials and books to guide them on how to use play during teaching.
“Most teachers lack the skills needed to use the play-based methodology. Therefore training them is necessary.”
She says another big challenge in implementing this methodology is time management as a big number of public schools use shifts.
“As a result, students don’t get ample time at school, which affects the play-based learning methodology,” she says.
Placcide Ukubashye, a teacher at Intwari Secondary School in Nyamirambo, Kigali, says, that methodology helps students to perform better since it is learner-centred.
“We organise them in groups according to their level of understanding. In this roundtable learning method, we use algorithmic gymnastics where we teach complex subjects like mathematics to be understood by the students easily through roundtable games,” she says.
He says since the project was introduced in schools performance had improved considerably.
According to Herbert Turinawe, a teacher at King David Academy in Kigali, play-based learning is ideal for early childhood education.
“A big number of teachers are skilled but with little knowledge on the play-based methodology where the new approaches to teaching are highly needed. Using sports and play is a good way of empowering children and addressing the challenges they meet at school,” he says.
Turinawe calls on teachers to get skills to make education enjoyable so as to curb down school drop-outs.
Faustin Mutabazi, the chief executive officer, Educational Consultancy Bureau, says play-based learning methodology helps the students to feel empowered. It creates a healthy and enjoyable learning environment for students to develop to their fullest potential. It enhances learning by shaping each child’s sense of self-esteem, confidence and building of teacher-student bond.
On the other hand, Valentie Inyamibwa, a student at College de Bethel in Ruhango district, says the play-based learning methodology helps the students to communicate and express themselves better. Once this methodology is also taken up in all schools it will help in reducing the drop-out rates. In addition children easily forget when the teachers simply talk without dramatising some of the concepts. This methodology enables children to better grasp what is taught.
For Chantal Gahongayire, a teacher at Ecole Primaire Intwali, play-based learning helps students to develop their hidden talents as they feel at home and supported when they are taught through fun. It also helps students to grow physically, socially and emotionally due to the close interaction during the learning process.