Citation for Sir Fazle Hasan ABED KCMG Yidan Prize for Education Development Laureate 2019
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.
Over the past three years the Yidan Prize has successfully identified exceptional achievement in education. We need to spread the word of these achievements and encourage discussion around the issues they address. Your support as an individual and member of the wider education community can help us to engage all key stakeholders including policy-makers, community leaders and our youth to unite behind the Yidan Prize goal of a better world through education.