CAPS Foundation Phase: A Comprehensive Guide for Teachers

Overview of the South African CAPS Foundation Phase

The South African Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) Foundation Phase is a crucial stage in the country’s education system, catering to children aged 5 to 9, within Grades R (reception) to 3. The Department of Basic Education introduced the CAPS framework in 2011 to replace the previous National Curriculum Statement (NCS). This phase lays the groundwork for learners’ academic journey, aiming to foster a solid foundation in literacy, numeracy, and life skills. By instilling these foundational proficiencies early on, the CAPS Foundation Phase plays a pivotal role in shaping the future success of South African learners.

Purpose and Goals of the Foundation Phase

The CAPS Foundation Phase aims to provide a comprehensive and balanced education that enables young learners to develop holistically. The primary goals of this phase are as follows:

  1. Develop Basic Literacy Skills: The Foundation Phase emphasizes developing essential literacy skills, including reading, writing, and listening comprehension. These skills are crucial for learners to effectively navigate and engage with the world around them and succeed academically in future grades.
  2. Establish Numeracy Competence: Numeracy skills are fundamental for learners to understand basic mathematical concepts and problem-solving strategies. The Foundation Phase prioritizes the development of numeracy skills to equip learners with the tools necessary to thrive in various life situations and academic disciplines.
  3. Cultivate Life Skills: The CAPS Foundation Phase places a strong emphasis on fostering life skills, such as self-awareness, interpersonal communication, decision-making, and critical thinking. These skills are vital for learners to become well-rounded individuals capable of handling everyday challenges and contributing positively to society.
  4. Promote Socialization and Emotional Well-being: The Foundation Phase encourages socialization and emotional development by providing a nurturing and supportive learning environment. Doing so helps learners form healthy relationships, develop empathy, and acquire the emotional resilience required for personal growth and well-being.
  5. Encourage Creativity and Curiosity: The CAPS Foundation Phase aims to stimulate learners’ curiosity and creativity through engaging and age-appropriate learning experiences. This approach encourages learners to explore their interests, think critically, and develop a love for learning that persists throughout their lives.

The South African CAPS Foundation Phase is designed to create a solid educational foundation for young learners by focusing on developing literacy, numeracy, and life skills. By prioritizing these essential competencies and fostering a nurturing learning environment, the Foundation Phase plays a crucial role in setting up learners for future academic and personal success.

Structure and Organization of the CAPS Foundation Phase Curriculum

The CAPS Foundation Phase curriculum is structured to provide a comprehensive and balanced education for young learners. The curriculum is organized into three main learning areas: Language, Mathematics, and Life Skills. Each learning area is further divided into subjects or sub-areas, with specific content and skills to be covered in each grade. The curriculum is designed to be progressive, with each grade building on the previous one, allowing for systematically developing knowledge and skills.

Principles and Values Underpinning the Curriculum

The CAPS Foundation Phase curriculum is underpinned by several principles and values that guide its development and implementation. These principles and values include:

  1. Learner-centeredness: The curriculum places the needs, interests, and abilities of learners at the centre, ensuring that the learning experiences are relevant, engaging, and age-appropriate.
  2. Inclusivity: The curriculum is designed to accommodate the diverse needs and backgrounds of all learners, regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, gender, or ability. This ensures that every learner has an equal opportunity to access and benefit from quality education.
  3. Integration and Holistic Development: The curriculum emphasizes integrating knowledge, skills, and values across learning areas, promoting the holistic development of learners. This approach fosters critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity, preparing learners for success in various aspects of life.
  4. Social Cohesion and Equity: The CAPS Foundation Phase curriculum promotes social cohesion and equity by allowing learners to engage with diverse perspectives and develop a sense of shared values and identity as South African citizens.
  5. Environmental Awareness and Sustainability: The curriculum encourages learners to become responsible and informed global citizens by fostering environmental awareness and promoting sustainable practices.

Learning Areas and Key Focus

The CAPS Foundation Phase curriculum comprises three primary learning areas, each with a specific focus:

  1. Language: This learning area covers developing literacy skills in the home language and additional languages. It focuses on reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills, as well as language structure and use. The curriculum also promotes the appreciation of literature, nurturing a love for reading and storytelling.
  2. Mathematics: The Mathematics learning area aims to develop learners’ numeracy skills, including number sense, operations, patterns, and relationships. It also covers basic geometry, measurement, and data handling. The curriculum emphasizes using mathematical concepts and problem-solving strategies in real-life situations, encouraging learners to become confident and competent in their mathematical abilities.
  3. Life Skills: This learning area is designed to develop essential life skills, such as self-awareness, interpersonal communication, decision-making, and critical thinking. The curriculum encourages learners to explore their interests and express themselves creatively, promoting emotional, physical, and social development. It is divided into three sub-areas: Personal and Social Well-being, Physical Education, and Creative Arts.


Home Language

  • Subject objectives: The Home Language subject aims to develop essential literacy skills, including reading, writing, listening, and speaking. It promotes the appreciation of literature and storytelling while strengthening language structure and use.
  • Content and assessment standards: The content and assessment standards include reading and viewing, which focuses on decoding and comprehending various text types; writing and presenting, which involves producing coherent and grammatically accurate texts; and listening and speaking, which emphasizes understanding and responding to oral language.
  • Strategies for teaching and learning: Educators should use explicit phonics instruction and word recognition activities, provide shared, guided, and independent reading opportunities, model and scaffold writing processes, and incorporate interactive listening and speaking activities.

First Additional Language

  • Subject objectives: The First Additional Language subject aims to develop basic communication skills in an additional language, enhance cultural understanding and social cohesion, and encourage multilingualism and cognitive development.
  • Content and assessment standards: The content and assessment standards include reading and viewing, which involves decoding and comprehending simple texts; writing and presenting, which focuses on producing short and basic texts; and listening and speaking, which emphasizes understanding and responding to simple oral language.
  • Strategies for teaching and learning: Educators should expose learners to language through songs, stories, and rhymes, use visual aids and real-life objects to support understanding, and engage in collaborative activities and games to practice language skills.


  • Subject objectives: The Mathematics subject aims to develop numeracy and mathematical understanding, encourage problem-solving and critical thinking abilities, and apply mathematical concepts in real-life situations.
  • Content and assessment standards: The content and assessment standards encompass number sense, including counting, comparing, and ordering numbers; operations, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division; patterns and relationships, which involve identifying and extending patterns; and geometry, measurement, and data handling, which focus on shapes, length, mass, capacity, and time.
  • Strategies for teaching and learning: Educators should use concrete materials and manipulatives to explore mathematical concepts, provide real-world examples and problem-solving activities, and offer guided practice and independent work to consolidate understanding.

Life Skills

  • Subject objectives: The Life Skills subject aims to develop essential life skills and values, foster emotional, physical, and social well-being, and encourage creativity and self-expression.
  • Content and assessment standards: The content and assessment standards include Personal and Social Well-being, which focuses on self-awareness, relationships, and decision-making; Physical Education, which emphasizes gross and fine motor skills, spatial awareness, and fitness; and Creative Arts, which involves visual arts, drama, dance, and music.
  • Strategies for teaching and learning: Educators should use role-playing and group discussions to explore social and emotional issues, engage in movement and physical activities to promote physical development, and provide artistic projects and performances to encourage creativity and self-expression.

Teaching Approaches

Inquiry-based learning

  • Definition and key principles: Inquiry-based learning is a student-centred approach that encourages learners to ask questions, explore, and discover new knowledge. This approach develops critical thinking, problem-solving, and research skills.
  • Benefits for the Foundation Phase: Inquiry-based learning engages learners’ natural curiosity and motivation, supports the development of independent learning, and fosters metacognition.
  • Practical examples and strategies: Educators should provide open-ended questions and challenges, facilitate hands-on experiments and investigations, and encourage reflection and self-assessment.

Differentiated instruction

  • Definition and key principles: Differentiated instruction is an approach that tailors instruction to meet learners’ diverse needs, interests, and abilities. It includes varied content, process, and product to support all learners.
  • Benefits for the Foundation Phase: Differentiated instruction ensures all learners can access and engage with the curriculum, promotes inclusive education, and maximizes individual growth.
  • Practical examples and strategies: Educators should use flexible grouping and individualized instruction, provide multiple options for demonstrating understanding and skills, and offer scaffolded support and extension activities.

Play-based learning

  • Definition and key principles: Play-based learning is a pedagogical approach incorporating play as a primary means of learning. It recognizes the importance of play for cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development.
  • Benefits for the Foundation Phase: Play-based learning engages learners’ intrinsic motivation and enjoyment, enhances social skills, and fosters creativity.
  • Practical examples and strategies: Educators should incorporate educational games and activities in the classroom, design thematic, hands-on learning centres, and facilitate guided and free play opportunities.

Assessment in the Foundation Phase

Formative assessment: Formative assessment is an ongoing process used to monitor learning progress and provide feedback. It is used to inform instruction and improve learning outcomes.

Summative assessment: Summative assessment is a periodic evaluation used to measure learners’ mastery of content and skills. It is employed to measure overall achievement and performance.

Techniques and tools for assessment: Educators should use observations and anecdotal records, checklists and rubrics, and portfolios and work samples for evaluation.

Resources and Materials

Essential resources

  • Textbooks and workbooks: Curriculum-aligned resources support teaching and learning by providing structured learning activities and assessment tasks.
  • Teaching aids and manipulatives: Concrete materials and visual aids, such as counters, number lines, and flashcards, enhance understanding and engagement.
  • Digital resources and technology: Interactive whiteboards, tablets, and computers support multimedia learning, while educational software and applications help practice and reinforce skills.

Supplementary resources

  • Online platforms and tools: Websites, resources for lesson planning, assessment, and professional development, as well as interactive learning platforms and virtual manipulatives, can be valuable additions to the classroom.
  • Educational games and apps: Engaging and age-appropriate games support learning objectives, while apps promote creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving.
  • Print and media resources: Supplementary books, posters, audiovisual materials enrich learning experiences, and magazines, newspapers, and documentaries promote real-world connections.

Resource management

  • Organizing and storing resources: Efficient systems for locating and accessing materials when needed can include storage solutions like shelves, bins, and folders.
  • Accessing and sharing resources: Collaborate with colleagues to share resources and expertise and utilize online platforms and local networks to access materials.
  • Budgeting and fundraising for resources: Allocate funds for essential resources and prioritize needs while exploring fundraising options and grant opportunities to supplement resources.

Classroom Management and Organization

Physical environment

  • Classroom layout and design: Arrange furniture and resources to create an inviting and functional space while ensuring accessibility and safety for all learners.
  • Learning centres and activity areas: Designate areas for specific learning activities and play-based exploration, organized and labelled to promote independence and responsibility.
  • Classroom displays and visual aids: Create educational and engaging presentations to support learning and showcase learners’ work, as well as visual aids to assist with routines and instructions.

Time management

  • Scheduling and routines: Establish consistent routines and schedules to support time management, balancing instructional time, breaks, and transitions.
  • Allocating time for different learning activities: Ensure adequate time for core subjects and creative and physical activities, providing opportunities for an individual, small group, and whole-class instruction.

Behaviour management

Establishing rules and expectations: Collaborate with learners to create clear, age-appropriate rules, consistently reinforcing and reviewing expectations.

Positive reinforcement and consequences: Encourage positive behaviours through praise, rewards, and incentives, and implement fair and consistent consequences for inappropriate behaviours.

Strategies for addressing challenging behaviours:

  • Identify triggers and underlying causes of behaviour issues.
  • Implement targeted interventions and support strategies.
  • Collaborate with parents and support services when necessary.

Supporting Learner Diversity

  • Identifying and assessing learners’ needs: Observe and document learners’ strengths and challenges, and utilize formal and informal assessments to identify their needs.
  • Strategies for accommodating and supporting learners: Differentiate instruction, provide individualized support, modify materials and resources to meet learners’ needs, and implement accommodations and modifications during the assessment.
  • Collaborating with specialists and support services: Work closely with special education professionals and therapists, and develop and implement individualized support plans.

Culturally responsive teaching

  • Understanding and valuing cultural diversity: Acknowledge and celebrate the diverse cultural backgrounds of learners, and engage in continuous self-reflection and cultural competency development.
  • Incorporating cultural knowledge and experiences in teaching: Integrate culturally relevant content and perspectives in lessons, and encourage learners to share their cultural experiences and knowledge.
  • Promoting inclusivity and social justice in the classroom: Address bias, stereotypes, and prejudice through open discussions and create a supportive and respectful learning environment for all.

Professional Development and Collaboration

Opportunities for professional growth

  • In-service training and workshops: Participate in ongoing professional development offered by schools or districts, developing skills and knowledge in specific teaching areas.
  • Conferences and seminars: Attend local, national, or international conferences to learn about current trends and best practices, network with other professionals and share ideas.
  • Online courses and professional learning networks: Engage in online courses and webinars to expand knowledge and skills, and join professional learning communities and social media groups for support and resources.

Collaborative practices

  • Peer observation and feedback: Observe colleagues’ lessons, provide constructive feedback, and reflect on feedback from peers to improve teaching practice.
  • Team teaching and co-planning: Collaborate with colleagues to plan and deliver lessons and share expertise and resources for the benefit of all learners.
  • Networking with other Foundation Phase teachers: Connect with educators from different schools or regions to exchange ideas and strategies and participate in collaborative projects and initiatives.


The Foundation Phase lays the groundwork for academic success and personal growth, fostering essential skills and values for lifelong learning. Teachers need to deliver high-quality instruction that meets the diverse needs of learners, creating a supportive and engaging learning environment. 

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