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LEGO wants to improve education by having kids play more

CB Libraries

It’s time to put down the books and take a play-time break with some LEGOs. That’s at least the idea put forward by the iconic makers of LEGOs.

The LEGO Foundation is ready to build the future of global education, brick-by-brick by challenging traditional education systems and encouraging play-time to be included in early education settings. Of course, not all the experts agree.

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Education unlocks opportunity and empowers tomorrow’s leaders, making it one of the most essential tools to ending extreme global poverty. Teachers, parents, and governments are met with the questions of how to prepare students early in life, through providing access to education, once there is a quality experience in the classroom. Tomorrow’s leaders are today’s students so challenging ineffective educational policies and raising the quality of education around the world is a step towards a brighter future--one that will hopefully be full of brilliant leaders.

The 29-year-old LEGO Foundation thinks it’s time for parents and governments to put a temporary pause on the severe push towards numeracy and literacy early on in life. Intense competition puts a strain on schools to teach students as much as possible and as early as possible which may stunt a child’s ability to fully develop in academics and as person with critical thinking talent.

“Children should learn mainly through play up until the age of 8,” Hanne Rasmussen, the head of LEGO said.

The toy foundation believes students are missing out on early opportunities for play-based learning that develops creativity, problem-solving, and empathy. Play-based learning includes hands-on learning and activities that encourage interaction and collaboration over memorizing numbers or words.

Hanne Rasmussen is considering the possibility that there is a lack of understanding the value of play-based learning among parents and schools.

LEGO is on a mission to change the mindset of  global educators. The foundation is planning to invest in academic research that takes a deeper look at the educational value of play, and how to measure it. Measurement is a key to rewriting broadscale education policies.

The plan includes putting £4 million GBP  into a new “LEGO professorship” at Cambridge University and other prestigious universities. The professorship will fund further exploration into how early play-learning relates to other aspects of child development, like what happens to the brain during play, and how play fosters growth, learning, and wellbeing.

Some advice for the largest toy company in the world?

Conquering the globe with iconic blue and yellow bricks is one thing, but inspiring the minds of governments and parents is another.

The iconic foundation’s mission statement, “Inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow”, explains LEGO’s interest in this subject area, but educational practitioners and professionals are questioning the validity of LEGO’s new assertion.

These LEGO plans directly challenge the traditional knowledge-based, heavily tested approach to schooling favored by the UK, the US, and almost all other governments.

LEGO CEO, Hanne Rasmussen, is ready for the challenge. Attending school in Denmark, Rasmussen recalls that there was more time to play and “we had more room to actually engage and keep ourselves entertained and we learned through that and we grew in many different ways through that,” she said.

Some research already completed at Cambridge University discovered children were able to tell and act out stories with LEGOs before writing them down, proving that play-time can boost narrative and writing skills.

If the LEGO Foundation is right, is education getting it all wrong? No, it’s not getting it all wrong but there could be a better focus by educators and policymakers on what goes into a quality education that turns out well-rounded children.

Rasmussen sees the need for education policies that explore all aspects of childhood and growth. “We certainly believe the brick (LEGO) is a very, very valuable tool in learning through play but is it the only way or only tool? No, certainly not.”