Institutionalising project-based learning with the Department of Basic Education

Learn to Live School of Skills leads the way with new methodology.

This past week the education sector the world over benefited from a global event, led by teachers for teachers. The event was the first ever virtual World Education Week conference where 100 schools from across the globe were selected to speak on different topics related to the ‘new normal’ and learning in the 21st century.

Learn to Live School of Skills was one of only seven schools in South Africa invited to speak at the week-long event, where they shared their insights on their pioneering implementation of project-based learning (PBL).

Institutionalising project-based learning in South Africa

Introducing the concept of project-based learning was Dr. Ria de Villiers from the National Department of Basic Education. The Department intends to institutionalise PBL in all schools by 2022 to reduce youth unemployment by 90% by the year 2030. Learn to Live School of Skills is one of just a few schools currently participating in the pilot phase of this project. “The world is changing and the reasons for project-based learning are very clear to us. Something has to happen in South African education.

Education at school level has become critical and we as educators cannot allow one moment of that learner’s school life to be wasted. Every second of the thirteen years has to be used fruitfully,” said de Villiers. “Project-based learning unlocks 21st century competencies and solution-seeking mindsets so that the youth become employable, engaged and entrepreneurial.”

What is project-based learning and why is it the solution to youth unemployment?

Next up, academic and architect of project-based learning at Learn to Live, Professor Tom Ryan walked viewers through ‘learning to construct and live a sustainable livelihood’, which is the primary purpose behind the creation of project-based learning methodology. Essentially, project-based learning encourages learners to think interdependently, communicate with clarity, manage impulsivity, take responsible actions and apply past knowledge to new experiences as they explore real-world challenges and apply what they learn in a dynamic classroom environment.

The endgame is the effective creation of better work habits and improved attitudes towards learning, resulting in the long-term retention of skills. Ryan said, “Much of our education problem is a system design problem. Learning is social – much of it is about conversation: doing, thinking, listening, speaking, reading and writing. Project-based learning is a mediated process. It’s not an end in itself, it is a tool used to facilitate the development and learning process of our youth.”

Removing socio-economic stressors for vulnerable youth

The Salesian Institute and its Learn to Live School of Skills are dedicated to improving the lives of South Africa’s vulnerable children and at-risk youth with contemporary educational programmes designed to instil a love for lifelong learning and the confidence to be effective leaders.

To achieve this, Learn to Live School of Skills starts by removing socio-economic stressors so that learners can focus on their schoolwork. Learn to Live is a safe space that provides the learners with three nutritious meals a day and covers transport costs to and from school, as well as the cost of learning materials. Importantly, they also offer mental health programmes facilitated by social workers and occupational therapists. With the removal of these stressors and the implementation of new and innovative teaching methodology, learners are finding their voices, attendance and discipline are improving, while confidence levels are rising.

Harnessing a technologically driven future

De Villiers added that the world is changing at an exponential rate and the pending Fourth Industrial Revolution means that we should all be looking to teach new skills and ways of thinking that will be needed for the shifting job opportunities of the future. Technology is changing the way we live and work, so why shouldn’t we be changing the way we teach and learn?

Welcoming viewers to the talk, Father Pat Naughton, CEO of Salesian Institute Youth Projects, said of their implementation of project-based learning, “A student-centred approach to education fits in so well with Don Bosco’s vision. I was convinced PBL was what we were looking for… and already our learners’ lives have been transformed. Discipline and attendance improved: learning is taking place in joyful ethos.”

The Learn to Live School of Skills is a story of courage

You can watch the full Learn to Live School of Skills presentation on the Salesian Institute Youth Projects YouTube channel here:

For more information on Salesian Institute Youth Projects and their initiatives call 021 425 1450, email or visit

Connect on social media at /SalesianInstituteYouthProjects on Facebook, @salesian_youth on Twitter, @salesian.youth on Instagram, @Salesian Institute Youth Projects Cape Town on LinkedIn and Salesian Institute on YouTube.


The Salesian Institute is dedicated to improving the lives of South Africa’s vulnerable children and at-risk youth regardless of religion, race, gender or nationality. A long-standing commitment, the Salesian Institute has been providing education, shelter and emotional support to youth for over a century, constantly adapting to the unique needs of South Africa’s 21st-century young people. Their programmes include the Learn to Live School of Skills, Porsche Mechatronics Programme and Waves of Change Programme which encompass a custom-tailored mix of basic education, vocational training and life skills. With these programmes they aim to drive a better future for all as SA’s youth become productive and economically active citizens

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