The Foundation Phase begins with the skills that a learner acquires in Grade R. This year is often referred to as the year in which children only play, but that’s exactly what they need to do. With the tremendous pressure that society places on young learners today and competition between parents to see whose child is performing the best, we sometimes forget about what is really important for a learner in this phase.
Can you still remember your nursery school years? There was playing, drawing, colouring, cutting, painting, etc. These skills are crucial to ensure that a learner is ready for Grade 1. Many learners are expected to perform above their abilities as parents do not want their child to be left behind, but are parents not harming their child in the process?
Learners in Grade R need to develop their muscles optimally through gross motor and fine motor skills. It directly affects their concentration and academic performance. Learners exposed to too much screen time develop weak muscles leading to low muscle tone. These learners will typically use their hands to hold their heads or lie down on their arms and try to write. They cannot concentrate for long periods and will not be able to complete the daily tasks in class.
A learner who already has a disadvantage when they come to Grade 1 will only fall further behind as they move through the grades. By the time they come to Grade 4 and are expected to read and write independently, there are many learners who cannot meet the standards or just barely make it to the next grade.
In Grade R, play should be a learner’s only task, while the building blocks for Home Language and Mathematics should be embedded in Grades 1 – 3 for learners to perform in their academic career. Grades 1 – 3 repeat all the same subjects and concepts every year, it only becomes a little more difficult and prepares the learner to learn independently. Therefore, it is important that learners in the Foundation Phase understand the basic concepts before moving to the next phase in their academic career.