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330: Khalifa International Award for Early Learning (KIAEL) with Prof. Nirmala Rao
20th February 2023 • Education On Fire - Sharing creative and inspiring learning in our schools • Mark Taylor
00:00:00 00:29:48

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The new Khalifa International Award for Early Learning (KIAEL), funded by the United Arab Emirates, wants submissions from UK academics, projects, schools and nurseries displaying brilliance and innovation in the early education sector.

Two winners in each of the categories “Best Research & Studies” and “Best Programmes & Teaching Practices” will receive $50,000. The recipients will be announced in June 2023.

The KIAEL Awarding Committee, which features Professor Iram Siraj, Professor of Child Development and Education, University of Oxford, are looking for high-quality, evidence-based research and impactful programmes, methodologies, and advanced teaching practices. Early education is defined as anything aimed at children aged eight and under.

Initiatives for children with disabilities are particularly welcome.

The prize was founded by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister, and aims to improve the standard of early childhood education around the world.

It is open to entrants from any country, including developing nations.

There have already been more than 40 prize registrations from the UK, but the organisers want many more through January and February.

“Our mission is to identify and reward research on early-childhood education, care that supports improvements in practice and exemplary programmes or teaching practices demonstrated to improve quality and/or the learning and development of young children,” says Professor Iram Siraj.

Professor Siraj is one five internationally renowned early learning experts who make up the KIAEL Awarding Committee. They also include: Dr Steven Barnett, founding Co-Director of the National Institute for Early Education and Board of Governors Professor of Education at Rutgers University in the US; Dr Nirmala Rao, a Chair Professor at the Faculty of Education at the University of Hong Kong and Serena H C Yang Professor in Early Childhood Development and Education; Fatma Ahmad Abdulla Al Bastaki, Cluster Manager, Emirates Schools Establishment, Ministry of Education, UAE; Dr Jana Fleming, Director, Early Childhood Development, Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, Abu Dhabi.

Judging will place a firm emphasis on rigorous evaluation and impact to recognise initiatives and research in early childhood that can be globally inspirational due to measurable positive results.

“All programmes submitted for consideration should have been subject to an evaluation of implementation or outcomes that provide strong evidence of current or potential impact,” said Professor Siraj.

The deadline for entries is the 28 February 2023. Applications need to be submitted online at

Nirmala Rao is a 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).

She is a Developmental and Chartered (Educational) Psychologist by training and has conducted research on early childhood development and education in Asian cultural contexts. Professor Rao has published widely and serves on the Editorial Board for premier scholarly journals. She is a regular participant in high-level international meetings, written advocacy material, and undertaken consultancies for international organisations. Professor Rao has received awards for both research and teaching.