Recently, Dr Michael Rwibasira, the head of examination and accreditation at Rwanda Education Board ( REB), while addressing teachers hinted on the adaption of play-based learning methodology in the classrooms as one way we can stop teacher-centered learning and embrace inclusive learning where students can always take lead in the learning process.
He said the adaption of this methodology will avert rot learning at an early age and be able to nurture innovative and creative thinking future human resource for our country.
Well, Rwibasira was right because even before him, many other scholars have agitated for this approach to teaching and learning for quality education to be achieved.
Teachers can facilitate children’s learning while maintaining a playful approach in interactions known as “guided play in the process of learning” and this is primarily based on how much a teacher prepares the learning environment using this method.
A teacher’s role in this learning style varies as a function of their educational goals and the child’s developmental level.
However, much as experts and academicians have continued to expound on the notion of play-based learning as well as highlighting its importance to children’s lives and cognitive growth, it’s however sad to observe that the time children spend playing while learning has continued to diminish and teachers seem to have forgotten the importance of this approach.
We used to sing songs before classes began in lower primary and even lower secondary, but such is no more as children as early as seven have no time to play. They restricted to the classroom and at the end of the day, they are given loads of homework.
Even parents who aim to give their pre-schoolers a leg up are led to believe that flashcards and educational “toys” are the path to success.
We need to underscore the fact that through play-learning, children will get exposed to yet another style of learning that teaches them to regulate their behavior. This lays a firm foundation for later learning in different disciplines, including managing complex discussions of social relationships as well as building a repertoire of creative problem-solving skills which cannot be addressed by loads of homework and educational toys.
Through play-based learning, children get the opportunity to explore, discover, negotiate, take risks, create meaning and solve problems, which are all important foundations for developing literacy, numeracy and social skills.
Today, Australian schools are among the powerhouses of quality education in the world. It’s however important to note that the Australian government made play-based learning central in its education system, especially in the early years of learning such as lower primary.
Much as play-based learning sounds simple, it is rather a complex form of learning that requires an experienced educator who knows and can easily tell each child’s overall development, emerging strengths and interests.
While using play-based learning in the process of learning, teachers must be able to introduce and reinforce concepts to children to learn in a way that engages each child’s interests. This will help to capitalize on child’s usual sense of inquiry and discovery through hands-on exploration of the world around them. These concepts calls upon teachers to try all means and understand each child’s competence and how they can stay engaged and help them realize their full potential.
The writer is a PhD student of Comparative Education at Beijing Normal University