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The Khalifa International Award for Early Learning will transform early childhood education quality in the UAE – Arabian Business

The Khalifa International Award for Early Learning will transform early childhood education quality in the UAE – Arabian Business

The impetus for the KIAEL

A new initiative intended to discover and recognise research, programs, methodologies, and advanced teaching practices in the field of early childhood education, Al Bastaki explains that The KIAEL exemplifies the desire of former UAE president, the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to encourage research and innovation in the early learning field by ensuring best practice implementation to guarantee the highest early childhood education quality.

She adds, “The KIAEL intends to promote research and development and enrich the culture of excellence and innovation in early childhood education in the region and worldwide.” It aims to create a mechanism to discover and recognise research, programmes, methodologies, and advanced teaching practices, acknowledge distinguished teachers, and activate the role of educational centres, institutions, and companies specialised in the field of early childhood education.

“Through this initiative, we also hope to raise awareness and focus attention on serving young children with disabilities in early childhood education,” she says, as the award will promote the publication of distinguished studies, successful practices, and methodologies to improve early learning policy and practice in this area as well.

The directives of the KIAEL

According to Al Bastaki, The KIAEL originates from the principled directives of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Presidential Court and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Khalifa Award for Education.

She explains, “The directives called for establishing an international award for early learning that would enrich the culture of excellence and innovation in education and promote research and development in this field.” The long-term objective of this initiative is to create new generations of leaders who possess the necessary knowledge and skillset to help themselves and others realise their dreams and aspirations.

The impact on the future of early education in the UAE

According to the World Bank, only 40 percent of children (nearly 350 million children) below primary-school-entry age around the world need childcare, but do not have access to it. Almost every country in the world now realises the importance of early learning and its vital role in ensuring children’s optimal growth and later schooling and lifelong success, says Al Bastaki.

And as the Covid pandemic severely disrupted the provision of quality early learning experiences for young children, calls for a renewed emphasis on education quality have come from multiple organisations such as the OECD and the World Bank.

“Yet, the evidence base regarding quality has serious limitations and inconsistencies that present challenges for its use by policymakers and practitioners,” she says, as last year, the KIAEL found that this characterised many of the nearly 300 applications they had received from almost 60 countries. 

“Therefore, The KIAEL was launched this year with an especially strong emphasis on rigorous evaluation and impact to recognise initiatives and research in early childhood that can be globally inspirational due to their measurable positive results and high impact.”

KIAEL seeks to identify research on early childhood education and care that supports improvements in practice

The two categories under the KIAEL

The KIAEL has two categories: ‘Best Research & Studies Prize’ and ‘Best Programmes & Teaching Practices’. In terms of the first category, Al Bastaki explains that the KIAEL seeks to identify research on early childhood education and care that supports improvements in practice.

“This category includes studies that provide innovative solutions to problems, new insights into learning and teaching, and enriching the evidence base for policy and practice in ways that can lead to meaningful improvements in early learning,” she says.

“When it comes down to programmes and teaching practices, the KIAEL seeks to identify initiatives that aim to improve early learning in homes, informal care, or formal care and education with demonstrated improvements in quality and/or the learning and development of the young children served.”

Four criteria for the Best Programs, Curricula, and Teaching Practices prize

The criteria for this category are innovativeness, importance, impact, and feasibility/sustainability, reveals Al Bastaki. “All programmes submitted for consideration would have been subject to an evaluation of implementation or outcomes that provide evidence of programme implementation and potential or documented impacts on practice in early learning and on early learning outcomes.”

The application processes

The KIAEL Awarding Committee will select two winners for each award with a cash prize of USD 50k (AED 183k) for each award. Al Bastaki explains, “Applicants can be individuals, teams, or organisations from any country. If the winner is a team, the monetary prize will be shared equally among the team members. Only applications submitted in English will be accepted.”  

See Also

Fatima Ahmed Al Bastaki, cluster manager, Emirates Schools Establishment & Awarding Committee Member, Khalifa International Early Learning Awards

The KIAEL Awarding Committee

The awarding committee consists of decorated international researchers and professors. “They were selected for their prestigious work in early learning, their academic qualifications in early childhood development and education, their status in the international academic community and their passion for making a difference in the area of their specialisation,” she says.

These judges include Dr. Steven Barnett, founding co-director of the National Institute for Early Education and Board of Governors Professor of Education at Rutgers University; Fatma Ahmad Abdulla Al Bastaki, project manager, Chinese Expansion Project in UAE, Cluster Manager, Ministry of Education; Dr. Jana Fleming, director, Early Childhood Development; Salama Bint Hamdan, Al Nahyan Foundation; Dr. Iram Siraj, OBE, professor of Child Development and Education, University of Oxford;  Dr. Nirmala Rao; and Serena H C Yang, professor in Early Childhood Development and Education, chair professor of Child Development and Education, and director of the Consortium for Research on Early Childhood Development and Education (CORE), Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong (HKU).

How to apply

The deadline for applications is the 28 February 2023 with the winners to be announced in June 2023. Applications should be submitted through the online application system at or before the application deadline. 

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