LEGO Foundation Conference calls for a disruption of traditional education systems as LEGO® Prize winner is announced

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This week, the LEGO Foundation invited thought leaders, practitioners, researchers, government representatives, and social innovators to the home of the LEGO Group in Denmark to share insights on new ways of learning.

The LEGO® Idea Conference saw some of the most inspiring and influential speakers in learning, education and early childhood development discuss how to address the global learning crisis and ensure children develop the breadth of skills they need to thrive and succeed.

This year, keynote speakers included Jaime Saavedra of the World Bank, Rebecca Winthrop from the Brookings Institute, and a range of innovative entrepreneurs in the education space.

Following two days of plenary speeches, hands-on interactive sessions and sharing innovations, the LEGO Foundation closed the conference by outlining a set of global principles for the advancement of breadth of skills. In addition, the Foundation has pledged a new advocacy effort around breadth of skills, drawing on the work done by the delegates this week.

John Goodwin, Chief Executive Officer at the LEGO Foundation said, “The LEGO Idea Conference is the LEGO Foundation’s flagship moment of the year. We are excited to bring together thought leaders from around the world.

“Our children face an uncertain future and it is vital that we prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead. Current learning systems are no longer fit for purpose and traditional education has consistently overlooked the importance of developing children’s breadth of skills.

“The disproportionate focus on standardised testing and knowledge retention is not setting them up for success. Learning through play, when coupled with traditional teaching practices, harnesses the wide range of skills needed, from creativity and critical thinking to problem solving and collaboration.

“We have convened 400 experts to discuss and contribute tangible solutions towards evolving traditional educational systems and approaches. In addition to those here this week, we can all make a difference and the LEGO Foundation is deeply committed to enhancing opportunities for our children to learn and develop through play – at home, in school and in their communities.”

This year’s Idea Conference also marks the award of the prestigious LEGO Prize, presented to individuals or organisations that have demonstrated outstanding commitment to the improvement of children’s lives and the promotion of learning through play.

This year’s winner is Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder and Chairperson of BRAC, one of the world’s leading development and humanitarian organisations. As part of the prize, he will receive a $100,000 cash reward, which will be used to strengthen BRAC’s support for children living with neuro-developmental disabilities and their families.

From the beginning of his career and the establishment of BRAC, Sir Fazle has viewed education as a crucial catalyst for change. His belief that education is about more than just schools and books is reflected in the constant innovation that is a cornerstone of BRAC’s approach. Since launching its non-formal education programme in Bangladesh in 1985, more than 11 million children have graduated from BRAC’s primary and pre-primary schools.

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 - 5 years are presently enrolled. These include more than 200 Play Labs supported by the LEGO Foundation. In the Labs, pre-school children have access to age-appropriate play materials, a play-based curriculum, and play spaces that ensure their holistic development.

The Play Labs connect parents and caregivers with their children through regular play sessions, while creating livelihood opportunities for young women from the community by training them as play leaders.

No other development organisation can match the range, quality, scale and effectiveness of BRAC’s education programme. Operating across 11 countries in Asia and Africa, BRAC’s is the largest secular, non-formal education system in the world.

“It is an honour to receive the esteemed LEGO Prize, and I am delighted to be a part of this fantastic conference. Every child deserves the opportunity to grow and develop. This generous financial contribution will support the holistic development of an underserved group of children in Bangladesh with special needs,” said Sir Fazle Hasan Abed.

“At BRAC, we pride ourselves on taking an innovative approach to early childhood development and education and share the LEGO Foundation’s passion for learning through play. Through our Play Lab programme, we have seen first-hand the power it can have in a child’s development,” he added.