Enhancing Early Education Through the Foundation Phase Initiative: A Focus on Play-Based Learning with Six Bricks

The Foundation Phase Initiative (FPI), launched in 2017, is an innovative program aiming to revolutionize early education in South Africa. This joint venture, involving the Department of Basic Education, UNICEF South Africa, the LEGO Foundation, and Care for Education, employs play-based learning for Grades R to 3 using Six Bricks manipulatives.

Six Bricks are sets of LEGO bricks that serve as educational tools. Through these bricks, learners engage in various educational activities, helping them to develop numeracy, literacy, and life skills. These manipulatives have proven to be effective in improving children’s conceptual understanding across various subjects such as mathematics, English, and local languages.

A young girl at Cenyu Public School in Stutterheim, Eastern Cape, uses the LEGO six bricks as part of the Foundation Phase Initiative. UNICEF.

An essential component of FPI is the incorporation of manipulatives in the foundation phase of education. The LEGO Foundation has been instrumental in this regard, having committed to providing Six Bricks sets to foundation phase children in public schools across the country.

Additionally, the FPI emphasizes the role of teachers in applying play-based learning methodologies. Teachers utilize Six Bricks not only for academic purposes but also as tools to gauge and engage pupils in physical activities, and to assess their emotional and mental well-being. For example, the colors of the bricks can be used to express emotions or to tell stories with a clear beginning, middle, and end. This helps children in articulating their thoughts and feelings.

A noteworthy milestone for FPI is the extent of its reach and impact. As of September 2022, over 27,500 foundation phase teachers have been trained in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, and Free State provinces. This represents around 4,000 schools and approximately 950,000 children benefitting from this initiative.

To further the reach of FPI, there are plans to expand the program to other provinces in South Africa, including Northern Cape, North West, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal starting in 2023.

FPI is also about community, bringing together teachers, students, and organizations to collaborate towards a common goal – the enhancement of early education. The importance of play in learning is widely recognized as critical for the development of key cognitive, social, and emotional skills.

In conclusion, the Foundation Phase Initiative represents a groundbreaking approach to education in South Africa. By integrating play-based learning through the use of Six Bricks, FPI is fostering an environment where children can thrive academically and personally. The initiative’s expansion into other provinces is a testament to its success and its potential for shaping the future of education in South Africa.