National Dialogue on Play based learning in ECCD in Nigeria held in Abuja, February 2023

Over 24 years of work in ECCD on the Policy and Practice showed that most ECCD classes, even in private schools, a low-value is placed on play and early years’ education is almost identical to that of primary one. The following key factors were observed to explain the low priority accorded to play in ECCD settings:

1) Teachers and caregivers of ECCD and nursery schools prioritize education components and give little time and attention to play;

2) Most learning environments for children do not have adequate play spaces and do not have funds to purchase crayons, colored paper and other play items, this is particularly the case in non-formal education settings such as displaced persons camps

3) The child’s ability to recite states and capital and the alphabet at 4 or 5 years is the most important indicator for parents and guardians that their child is learning as opposed to their ability to draw or to sing a song;

4) Teachers have reported that the national ECCD curriculum and teachers’ manuals do seem to not give enough detailed guidance to in-service teachers on how deliver child-centered, play based pedagogy. This is also the case for pre-service teacher training curriculum.

5) Against the background of the new national Language Policy where the pupil’s first language would be the compulsory medium of instruction, the absence of instructional ECCD material in the Mother tongue has emerged as a new challenge Following these observations, the dRPC in collaboration with Nigeria Educational Research Development Council (NERDC) and support from Ford Foundation convened National Policy Dialogue on Play based Learning in ECCD held in Abuja, Nigeria. The high-level workshop themed – Play-based learning in ECCD in Nigeria, challenges, opportunities and the way forward aimed was to determine the challenges and obstacles of play-based learning in formal and non-formal ECCD settings and to make recommendations for increased implementation of play-based learning in ECCD in Nigeria. Twenty five (25) participants drawn from the NERDC, national and state MDAs; academics and experts on ECCD and Inclusive Education; Civil Society Organizations, teacher training agencies working on ECCD and international development partners. Three panel discussions were held to discuss the challenges of incorporating play into public, private formal and non-formal ECCD education and strategies for addressing the identified challenges, Designing of safe play spaces to meet the needs of children, including children with disabilities and children in non-formal settings such as hospitals & displacement camps and Pre-service teacher training and in-service teacher development to strengthen teacher capacity for facilitating  Play-based learning in Nigeria. The rich mix of key stakeholders at the end of the workshop studied the key policy instruments for ECCD in Nigeria; the Integrated Early Childhood Development Policy and the NERDC Minimum standards for Safe Schools and recommended for the urgent review of the documents last reviewed in 2007 to address the current issues of ECCD education in Nigeria.

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The dRPC with support from Ford foundation is working with the Federal Ministry of Education (FME), the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Centre (NERDC) and the UNICEF to review the IECD Policy, the Minimum Standard for ECCD and the development of the Teachers’ Guide in Nigeria by 2024.