Learning through play: useful and enjoyable

Marloes Humbeeck
03 April 2019
Learning through play enables children to retain a lot more of what they are taught. The Belgian NGO 'VVOB – education for development' has already successfully applied this approach in Vietnam and Zambia.

Learning should be fun


Who said learning should be boring? 'VVOB – education for development' has a different vision. This organisation proposes an innovative way of learning in which children playfully explore the world around them, allowing them to get much more out of the time they spend in class.

After all, learning is not just about acquiring factual knowledge. It is a process in which children learn to interact with each other, an aspect which is neglected when all children do is listen to a teacher all day long. By contrast, when children get the opportunity to simultaneously learn and play, they become active participants in the learning process. Asking questions, laughing, talking to other children and telling stories enables them to relate what they learn to their own experiences and thus makes the material more concrete.

Playful learning is also fun. Instead of dreading that 'boring' school day, children are motivated to go to school, which enables them to learn faster. For this reason, VVOB is convinced that playful pedagogy in the classroom can greatly improve the quality of education in developing countries. 


From theory to practice


That all sounds great in theory, but is it really true that learning through play yields better results? And can this theory be put into practice? VVOB has tested the 'Learning Through Play' approach in different regions in Vietnam and Zambia. With success!


In Vietnam

Girl that is playing with blocks, looks at the camera smiling.

In Vietnam, learning equals delivering facts, while playing is seen as less valuable. To change this attitude, VVOB, together with the Vietnamese Ministry of Education, organised a training course for nursery teachers, during which the teachers were told how to measure the well-being and involvement of the children. ‘Well-being’ means that the child feels at ease in the classroom and has sufficient self-confidence, whereas ‘involvement’ becomes clear when children are focused and show interest.

One of the participating districts was the province of Nam Giang, where teachers discovered that children scored much better during playing activities than during learning activities. These results prompted several schools to organise inspiration sessions for teachers in order to brainstorm about new techniques that combine playing and learning. Other regions in Vietnam will also discover the power of playful pedagogy, as this approach is gradually being integrated into the Vietnamese education system.


In  Zambia

Children are smiling, clapping and dancing.
© Jens Mollenvanger

In Zambia, VVOB supports various partners, including the Ministry of Education, to introduce learning through play. Teachers are also provided with further training to discover how they can teach at the children’s level with the means they have at their disposal.

VVOB also promotes working in groups, which enables children to acquire language and social skills. This is often done in the form of ‘Corner Play’, with different group activities being organised in each corner of the classroom. The children can choose what they want to do, the idea being that having a choice will motivate them.  

While playful learning has many positive aspects, it can also cause chaos in the classroom. To prevent this, teachers are taught how to ‘manage’ the classroom. The idea is that while children should actively contribute, the teacher retains control over the class. Instead of a playground, the class becomes a fun, interactive and interesting learning environment.


Read more about it in the technical brief

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