6 Key Insights from the ECD and Basic Education Conference 2024

by | Mar 15, 2024 | Blog

Over the past few months, Early Childhood Development (ECD) has emerged as one of the trending topics in our ecosystem, largely sparked by the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and the budget speech a month ago. There is an urgent need to address the challenges that this sector faces. On 7 and 8 March 2024, our team attended the ECD and Basic Education Conference in Johannesburg. This conference provided a platform for teachers, researchers, policy makers, government officials, and other stakeholders to come together and discuss various issues related to early childhood and basic education.

According to our Investment Associate, Gilbert Anyetei, the event was a melting pot of ideas and insights, with speakers and attendees engaging in discussions on a wide range of topics.

We asked Gilbert to share some key insights that resonated with him from the discussions at the conference:

1. Use of synthetic phonics approach to literacy

The Western Cape government shared about their exploration of using synthetic phonics as a method to teach children how to read and write. By breaking words down into smaller units, such as “c-a-t” for “cat,” children are able to make connections and improve their reading skills at an early age. This initiative comes as a response to the concerning constant decrease in reading ability among South African children, as highlighted by the PIRLS results. By implementing synthetic phonics, the government hopes to reverse this trend and provide children with the tools they need to succeed academically.

2. Caregiver inclusion in children’s learning

It was clear from the discussions around the importance of involving caregivers in their young children’s education that there is a pressing need to address the issue. While it was acknowledged by various speakers and other attendees that parental involvement is crucial, there is still uncertainty on how best to achieve this. The heavy reliance of caregivers on the school system to take care of their children’s learning was highlighted as a major concern, with teachers unable to shoulder the full responsibility alone. The challenge of teaching multilingual children was also brought to the forefront, and was identified as one of the contributors to difficulties in literacy acquisition in children. Time constraints faced by many caregivers in spending quality time teaching their children was also identified as a significant contributor.

3. Enhancing numeracy skills through play

Maths literacy was also a topic of discussion, emphasising the importance of learning through play to enhance numeracy skills. It was highlighted that children learn best when engaged in interactive activities rather than traditional instruction methods. Practitioners were advised to make the learning process fun and engaging by incorporating math games. This hands-on, kinetic approach can be an effective way for children to grasp mathematical concepts, fostering deeper understanding and developing skills in a more dynamic and enjoyable manner.

4. Integrating technology in ECD

The integration of technology in ECD programmes was also touched on, emphasising the benefits technology can bring to young children, but also the concerns about accessibility for all children. There is a notable increase in tech intervention, assessment tools, and learning resources, and gaming options like mine craft is also being explored by some innovators. The idea of introducing technology at the ECD level is gaining traction and could have a significant impact on how children.

5. Inspiring leadership at school level

One of the speakers highlighted the importance of teachers viewing themselves as leaders and encouraging leadership skills in children. The speaker stressed the importance of modelling the behaviour they want to see in their learners in order to improve leadership in schools. This practical advice emphasised the significance of soft skills in developing future leaders. Teachers were encouraged to incorporate activities in their lessons that would allow students to take on leadership roles, such as reading rules for an activity. This approach not only fosters leadership skills, but also underscores the vital role teachers play in training the next generation of leaders for the country. It is an important reminder that teachers have the power to shape the future through their guidance and mentorship.

6. Working in silos

There was a common concern that role players in ECD and basic education are mostly operating in silos. It was noted that there is limited resource sharing, consistency in systems and rules, and awareness of new developments. To improve the effectiveness of education and development efforts, it is imperative for teachers, practitioners, and other key players in the field to work together and establish strong networks.

“Our team gained valuable insights and a deeper understanding of the issues in the ECD space which will greatly benefit our approach to supporting ECD innovations through IE. It was also a great opportunity to network with key players in the field.” Gilbert Anyetei – Investment Associate at Innovation Edge

Above all the lessons from the conference, Gilbert expressed his gratitude for the dedication and passion exhibited by teachers and ECD practitioners, stating:

“Ultimately, the most significant takeaway from the conference was the profound sense of dedication and passion exhibited by teachers and ECD practitioners in their work. Their selflessness and commitment to nurturing young minds left a lasting impression on me, underscoring the importance of recognising and supporting the invaluable work they do. Teachers and practitioners truly embody warmth and light in shaping the future of our children, and it is essential to appreciate and celebrate their contributions to society.

Do you have a solution to an early childhood challenge in South Africa? Send us an email at [email protected].

Author: Dimpho Lephaila – Communications Associate, Innovation Edge