Abu Dhabi: The Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA) is investing Dh6.65 million towards 14 research grants aimed at enhancing early childhood development (ECD) in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

The grants focus on producing actionable evidence that can inform ECD programmes and policies, and also advance the science of ECD in a culturally relevant manner.


Research universities

Six UAE universities will conduct the research projects, including the New York University Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates University, the Mohamed Bin Rashid School of Government, the University of Sharjah, the Emirates College for Advanced Education, and the University of Birmingham – Dubai.

The projects aim to significantly impact the development of evidence-based programmes and policies for young children and their families in Abu Dhabi.

Topics of study

The grants support diverse research projects aimed at understanding habits affecting health and nutrition of young children, and at evaluating the needs of the early childhood development workforce. They also study the impact of fathers on the development of young children, ultimately further advancing the science of ECD in Abu Dhabi.

“We are committed to advancing the field of early childhood development in Abu Dhabi through ECD research which informs policy and practice.

The funding of these grants underscores the UAE government’s commitment to ECD research. Our goal is to support a high-quality ECD research ecosystem that produces contextually relevant research, which can, in turn, be is used in decision making by policymakers, practitioners, parents, and all who influence the lives of young children in Abu Dhabi,” said Dr Yousef Al Hammadi, executive director for knowledge and impact at the ECA.

Children’s voices

In addition to the research grants funded through this call for proposals, ECA is funding a series of studies over three years that will serve to amplify children’s voices in ECD research. These studies will reach out to young children, ensuring their perspectives are heard and valued.

“We believe that children’s perspectives are essential to research and policymaking, and this groundbreaking project will help amplify their voices and ensure that they feel safe and are protected when participating in ECD research studies,” said In this context, Hamda Al Suwaidi, head of research at ECA.

Kerry Anne Lynch, deputy head of early years at Brighton College-Al Ain, expressed her excitement about the opportunity for young children to participate in research.

“Children can derive numerous benefits not only from the knowledge and policies or programs that emerge from research, but also from the research process itself. Through participation in research studies, children can interact with unfamiliar adults in a safe and protected manner, which can build their confidence and develop their personal and social skills,” Lynch said.

“One area of support that we need, as researchers, is greater participation in research. We need the public to be willing to participate in surveys, focus groups, and lab experiments and we need practitioners to be willing to share their experiences and their needs.

"This will help us ensure that research is truly culturally grounded and relevant to the needs and context of Abu Dhabi so that it can appropriately translate to policy and practice and positively influence the lives of young children and their families in impactful ways,” added Dr Iffat El Barazi, assistant professor of health promotion at UAE University.