Sir Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG

Founder, BRAC


Yidan Prize for Education Development




Equality in education, Literacy For All, Skills for Work and Life, Women and Girls Education, Education for Sustainable Development

Focus by region

Africa, Asia

Shining the light on joyfulness, the keystone to holistic education

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG (April 1936 – December 2019) was the Founder and Chair Emeritus of BRAC, ranked by Geneva-based ‘NGO Advisor’ as the number one NGO in the world in 2019 for the fourth consecutive year based on its innovation, impact and governance. Established in 1972, and operating across 11 countries in Africa and Asia, BRAC’s primary objectives are alleviating poverty and empowering the poor. He is represented by Mr Shameran Abed, Executive Director, BRAC International and Dr Erum Mariam, Executive Director, BRAC Institute of Educational Development on our Council of Luminaries.


Sir Fazle always viewed education as a crucial catalyst for change. He firmly believed that it is about more than just schools and books. Play based joyful learning is a cornerstone of BRAC’s approach. BRAC has set up more than 1,400 play-based early childhood development centres across Bangladesh, Tanzania and Uganda, where close to 40,000 children aged 1 to 5 years are presently enrolled. In these centres, pre-school children have access to age-appropriate play materials, a play-based curriculum, and play spaces that ensure their holistic development.

Sir Fazle was honoured with numerous national and international awards for his achievements in leading BRAC. In 2009, Sir Fazle was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George by the British Crown in recognition of his services to reducing poverty in Bangladesh and internationally.


Creating high impact and scalable early childhood development (ECD) solutions

Expanding upon BRAC’s work of implementing play-based early childhood development programs

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG applies award funds to explore the possibilities of integrating technology in low resource settings, offering support to parents, and training to play leaders.

Learn more about this initiative
“BRAC’s Play Lab projects demonstrate that the poorest and most vulnerable children can have access to quality and affordable Early Childhood Education.“

By Ms Dorothy Gordon

Panel Head, Judging Panel for Education Development, Yidan Prize

BRAC’s Play Lab projects demonstrate that the poorest and most vulnerable children can have access to quality and affordable Early Childhood Education. The emerging evidence on the importance of play on learning has tremendous implications for children globally. Play boosts cognitive and socio-emotional development as memory and language skills are improved and children are better able to manage their behaviour. For children in crisis settings research shows that play is key to promoting resilience and establishing a sense of normalcy.

The team at BRAC led by its Founder and Chair Emeritus Sir Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG has taken these scientific findings and implemented an innovative approach that builds on BRAC’s decades of experience in empowering the poor through implementation of community-led innovation in education.

This project revolutionizes how marginalized children learn. Young women drawn from the community, often from BRAC’s girls empowerment clubs, are trained in play-based pedagogy. They act as play leaders engaging groups of 30 children for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week. Parents and other community members help create toys from locally available resources and help decorate the accessible physical space which has been specially designed to encourage play. Each play lab is overseen by a committee of community members.

There are 1800 Play Labs in the three countries of implementation – Bangladesh, Tanzania and Uganda. Another dimension of the project, the Humanitarian Play Labs is adapted to the needs of displaced children who may have experienced trauma as is the case in the Rohingya Camps in Bangladesh.

The Play Lab uses 3 pillars to achieve sustainability: partnerships for scale; cost recovery and social enterprise models; and strong organizational governance. Partnerships are also key to its transformative impact as it works to influence major ECD stakeholders including multi-laterals and national governments by generating a rigorous evidence base that demonstrates the effectiveness of Early Childhood Development in low resource contexts. Impact monitoring makes use of international assessment tools in combination with tools developed in the context of the project. The Play Consortium, a network of national and global experts in the field of ECD supports this rigorous monitoring and evaluation programme. The results from this process will make it easier to collate and share best practice.

There are an estimated 250 million children who will be at risk because their local context does not provide for ECD. A further 75 million children are facing displacement. The work of Play Labs and Humanitarian Play Labs demonstrates that we can build high quality, low cost play-based learning for young children between 1-5 years old in the most low resource settings. It demonstrates that these children can have a better future through education.

This year’s laureates, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG, the Founder and Chair Emeritus of BRAC and Professor Usha Goswami, Professor of Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience and Director of the Centre for Neuroscience in Education at the University of Cambridge share a remarkable synergy in that they are both focused on the early years of education. I am looking forward to their exchanges and trust that they will find synergy and cross-fertilization of ideas through their association with the Yidan Prize.