Publication of the results of the 2021 Early Childhood Development Census
The Ministry of Basic Education has released the results of the 2021 Early Childhood Development (ECD) Census, which includes data on all ECD programs to better understand the learning and development landscape early childhood in South Africa.
The ECD 2021 Census, commissioned by the Department of Basic Education and funded by the LEGO Foundation, aims to collect reliable data and information in order to move to a centralized information system to improve resource allocation and the management of surveillance of ECD centers across the country.
Delivering the keynote address at the launch of the ECD census results at Fourways, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the opportunity to release the 2021 census results is significant for the education sector basic.
Motshekga pointed out that without reliable data on children accessing ECD services in their target age range and the number of practitioners providing these services, the department’s planning and funding systems are unlikely to reach the youngest children. poorest who most need public assistance.
“These results will help us further monitor trends in the ECD sector over time and help children develop at an early age so they can thrive as they grow through the education system,” said she declared.
According to data collected from August 2021, 42,420 early learning programs (ELPs) were counted, which collectively had 1,660,316 children enrolled.
The minister said some of the most notable findings included that there are an average of 6.2 ECD programs per 1,000 children aged 0-5 across the country.
The province with the highest total number of PELs is Gauteng at 25%, followed by KwaZulu-Natal at 19%, Eastern Cape and Limpopo at 13%.
“Six out of ten PELs are located in urban areas, which is a near perfect match to the proportion of enumeration areas that are urban at 59% according to the national census demarcations used by StatsSA,” she said.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and the Northern Cape, the majority of centers operate less than eight hours a day, while centers in the Western Cape and Gauteng stay open longer, averaging more than 10 hours.
Motshekga said this is in line with expectations and could be related to employment patterns.
The data also revealed that at 55% of ELPs, two languages are commonly spoken among children.
While at 80%, English is one of the languages spoken. Meanwhile, in ELPs where English is not spoken, isiZulu at 29%, isiXhosa at 19% and Afrikaans at 19% are the most spoken languages.
The data further showed that 34% of children aged 3-5 are enrolled in an ELP, 62% in urban areas and 38% in rural areas.
“Almost all (99%) of ELPs include at least one hour of meals in the daily program, usually lunch (94%), breakfast (88%) or snacks between meals (81%). The vast majority (81%) of ELPs have three or fewer classrooms for children, and the average number of children per class is 17,” the data revealed.
Learn through play
Findings regarding play-based learning indicated that, on the whole, South African ECD practitioners believe that the initiative for play-based learning lies primarily with the practitioners, not the children themselves.
“Relatively little time is allocated to free play, and materials and equipment that lend themselves to free play, such as fantasy toys and sandboxes, are less common than other types of toys.
The census further shows that ECD programs in the top quintile spend more time on free play as part of the daily program than ECD programs in the bottom quintile.
The minister stressed that the government must deliberately put in place policies and programs to prioritize ECD as a key element in overcoming the negative impact of poverty on young children, especially in poor communities. .
“We want our children to have space and more time to learn through play, to teach our children to make sense of the world around them from an early age, to develop their social and cognitive skills, to help them mature emotionally and gain the self-confidence needed to engage in new experiences and environments through play,” she said.
In terms of funding, the census revealed that 33% of PELs receive a grant from the Ministry of Social Development.
More than two-thirds (68%) of ELPs are registered as non-profit organizations (NPOs) and just under a third (31%) are part of a larger network or organization including several ELPs, such as a regional forum on ECD.
“A hugely critical part of the growth and development of young children is learning through play. This research has proven that our children are spending more time playing freely outside, with 44% of respondents saying children spend up to an hour of free play outdoors versus 33% for free play on the daily schedule,” Motshekga said.
According to the results, the minister said only 61% had at least 10 children’s books to play with and only 56% had age-appropriate books for different age groups.
The Minister expressed her gratitude to the LEGO Foundation as a key partner through the support she provided to the Ministry in funding this census.
She said it is an example of how the private sector can play a role in providing better education for children.
“As government, we are committed to working with and strengthening the Cross-Sectoral Forum, which coordinates the ECD sector. The Department of Basic Education is committed to working closely with the other branches of the state, NGOs, civil society and the private sector to ensure that all children, including children with disabilities, have access to quality ECD,” she said.
(With contributions from the South African government press release)