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Tangible Africa welcomes the Department of Basic Education (DBE)’s new Foundation Phase Coding and Robotics curriculum – which will equip learners with critical thinking skills from the very beginning of their educational journey.

Training of provincial and district officials in Coding and Robotics for the Foundation Phase took place in Gauteng earlier this month [May]. In a statement Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, announced that the reconceptualised Coding and Robotics Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) had been endorsed by Umalusi and will be rolled out in the Foundation Phase in 2025.

As an implementation partner of the Department of Basic Education (DBE)’s Teacher Union Collaboration (TUC) project, Tangible Africa is excited by the prominence of soft skills development as an integral part of the new Coding and Robotics curriculum.

Tangible Africa Founder and Nelson Mandela University Computing Sciences Head of the Department, Prof Jean Greyling, said the new curriculum is built on sound educational principles.

“Firstly, the fact that it can be presented unplugged (without the need of computers) makes it accessible to all the schools in South Africa. Furthermore, there is a strong emphasis on 21st century skills such as computational thinking, while the type of activities underlying the curriculum strongly supports group work and communication. Teachers will also be happy to see that there are various ways coding can be integrated into other subject areas like maths, life skills and languages,” said Prof Greyling.

Over the past three years Tangible Africa has trained teachers across the country in unplugged coding, using the flagship coding games, BOATS and RANGERS, in conjunction with lesson plans developed by Award-winning East London-based teacher, Kelly Bush.

“Mainly because of partnerships with teacher unions SADTU, SAOU and NATU we have reached over 30 000 teachers, and looking at the final curriculum, I am happy to say that the teachers have been well prepared. Next semester Tangible Africa and some of the unions are launching lessons for Grades 1 to 3 that will assist teachers to use block coding in doing baseline assessments. Thousands of Foundation Phase learners from across the country will also participate on 18 July during Tangible Africa’s annual #Coding4Mandela event,” said Greyling.

Bush, Head of ICT at Hudson Park Primary School in East London, said the lesson plans she developed for Tangible Africa were in response to the draft curriculum of 2021. “The unplugged lessons for Tangible Africa were aimed at assisting teachers in imparting crucial skills encompassing coding, computational thinking, design thinking, and digital citizenship, while also nurturing learners' abilities in cooperation, logical thinking, communication, critical and deductive thinking, as well as creativity and innovation.”

“I am happy to see these pedagogical features are highlighted in the final document, which can be implemented in any setting, from the deep rural classrooms of Tsomo to schools that already have computer labs,” said Bush.

Future Skills Programme Coordinator, Lusanda Maqungo, from We Code Everywhere in Tsomo was involved in Tangible Coding training that took place last year at schools from the Chris Hani East and Amathole Districts.

“I have trained hundreds of teachers in rural Eastern Cape in unplugged and tangible coding and found that teachers have few challenges in understanding it. They have enough confidence after attending the training to implement it in their schools. I have also seen that the problem-solving skills that are enhanced while doing this coding, has a very positive impact on learners’ self-confidence as well as their performance in subjects like maths.”

Success in the classroom

Teachers who have used tangible coding in their classrooms have similar feedback: “Our learners are completely engaged. Tangible and unplugged coding has taught our learners problem-solving activities and logical thought progression but most importantly how to be a team player and consider other learners,” said Momeem Omar, a Grade 3-teacher at Berea West Preparatory School in Durban.

Thandokazi Mzamo from Engcobo Primary School in the Eastern Cape said in addition to basic block coding, the BOATS Foundation Phase lessons cover concepts such as “Space and Shapes” which form part of maths. “The examples related to making tea, getting dressed or brushing your teeth are related to language where learners need to sequence pictures of stories. I use many of the BOATS activities to introduce some of my lessons,” said Mzamo.

Keith Gibson, a teacher at Collegiate Junior School for Girls in Gqeberha, also welcomed the new curriculum. “I am specifically very happy to see that there is more emphasis on solving problems in an unplugged way, rather than focusing on technology. Especially in Foundation Phase learners need to work in groups and have fun while learning. This curriculum creates space for that.”

Bronwen Jonson, a teacher at Summerwood Primary School in Gqeberha, said it was particularly exciting that Foundation Phase learners will be able to learn the fundamentals of coding, through play. “Teaching the learners from a young age to ‘think about their thinking’ is imperative. By implementing unplugged coding in the Foundation Phase, learners all over South Africa will be able to be part of this initiative. It wouldn't only be something Quintile 5 schools will be able to afford to implement,” said Jonson.

Prof Ronel Callaghan, a specialist in Computer Integrated Education at the University of Pretoria, also had high praise for the new curriculum.

“This curriculum illustrates that well designed Coding and Robotics activities can be a vehicle for best practises in teaching and learning - from computational thinking in action, to the integration of different subject areas, to accessibility, and more”.


Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777