Early Childhood Development


Teaching and learning in early childhood are critical foundational aspects of lifelong learning. UNICEF defines early childhood from 0-9 years. In South Africa ECD typically refers to birth to 4 years and often neglects the 5-6-year-old Grade R focus. At SDU we work with early school years teachers and NGO partners who offer programmes in the Foundation Phase: Grade R – 3 (5 - 9 years). Our approach to teaching and learning in these grades is fun, engaged and creative, with a strong focus on concept and skills development across all domains of early childhood.

We view early childhood education as a fundamental building block in childhood development. South Africa’s landscape of poverty, unemployment and inequality exerts tremendous negative effects on early childhood education. At SDU much of our ECD work focuses on under-resourced schools in order to redress the effects of poverty on early childhood education and tackle the stubborn trend of educational underachievement. We seek to provide quality early childhood education programmes to teachers in primary schools, pre-schools and in community Educare sites.

Our work focuses developing concepts that underpin the curriculum and content of the Foundation Phase subjects:

  • Languages
  • Like Skills
  • Mathematics

We offer UCT qualifications and approved short courses, site-based support and classroom mentoring, and provide appropriate resources to improve teaching and learning. We strive to create play and enquiry-based environments that inspire and motive teachers and learners to engage in shared processes of acquiring knowledge and experiences.

SDU’s ECD is involved in a number of partnerships and collaborative engagement to further improvements in early childhood teaching and learning.

MathsUp is a mobile application that aims to improve the Mathematics development of young children in South Africa through the delivery of accessible and fun Maths content to Grade R teachers. Content is aligned to and supports the Mathematics content of the National Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) . SDU offered Maths content and Afrikaans and isiXhosa translation expertise in the development of Terms 1 – 4 activities.


SDU is one of the Play Learning Materials Consortium (PLMC) members involved in the development of teacher learning materials on play-based learning for ECD. This material includes a literature review on play and play-based learning and a review of South Africa ECCD teacher education materials. The learning packs will be available for NQF level 4 – 7 teacher education course and will offer theory and a framework for teaching and learning through play. The PLMC includes ECD practitioners, specialists and researchers.

The development of the UNICEF teacher packs in aligned to the Project for Inclusive Early Childhood Care & Education (PIECCE). PIECCE is a multi-stakeholder, collaborative project that aims to increase access to qualifications for ECCE educators working in Birth to Four, thereby helping to professionalise the sector. Its objective is to produce a standardised Programme Framework for ECCE qualifications at NQF Levels 6 and 7 to support common understandings of ECCE educator competences, and to align occupational and professional training routes. PIECCE is funded by the European Union (EU) and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).


The development of the CACD mobile application is a collaboration between South Africa, Botswana and Namibia that will provide Language, Life Skills and Mathematics School Based Assessment (SBA) for teachers. An app has been developed that will contribute to the Mathematics assessment and teaching activities.