The Early Childhood Development Manager in Mpumalanga is faced with the problem of
providing evidence-based guidance of the best facilitation approach in the Grade R context. An
investigation on the effect of facilitation, i.e. play-based or formal instruction, on Grade R
performance scores in English Additional Language (EAL) learning was conducted. Literature
findings attest to formal learning contributing to better performance scores than play-based
learning, yet most rural schools in Mpumalanga use the play-based approach. The English
Language Proficiency (ELP) standards assessment tool is reported to have no cultural bias and
was used to collect the data. The tool assessed learners’ listening and speaking skills in EAL.
A quantitative methodology was followed, using a static two-group comparison design. Participants
in the two groups were matched according to age and all had a similar exposure period
to EAL learning, a rural upbringing, poverty level, and all were mainstream learners. Inter-rater
reliability was obtained since two raters assessed learners’ proficiency in EAL skills. A one-way
Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was used to analyse the data. It was found that the formal
based approach contributed to better EAL scores when compared to the play-based approach.
Implications for practice are discussed.