The Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA) has announced awarding AED 1.2 million funding across five significant research projects related to Early Childhood Development (ECD). The projects will be conducted by researchers and academics coming from local and international higher education institutions.
The move comes within ECA’s efforts to develop and implement an effective ECD research ecosystem, to inform evidence-based policymaking, support planning and quality improvement. This contributes to ECA’s endeavors to promote holistic child development and wellbeing from pregnancy to the age of eight, by focusing on four sectors, including health and nutrition, child protection, family support, education and early care.
In this regard, Hamda Mohamed Al Suwaidi, a senior researcher at ECA, said: “The research projects will enable ECA and its partners to address challenges facing young children and their families in Abu Dhabi, thus developing effective and evidence-based solutions.”
“Through our collaboration with researchers from local and international universities and institutions, ECA seeks to address two ECD-related challenges in Abu Dhabi – chronic absenteeism and early intervention. This collaboration aims to deliver insights for policymakers, service providers, and other stakeholders to take action to support the ECD sector,” she added.
Al Suwaidi affirmed that ECA is working on developing an integrated research ecosystem utilizing new technologies, artificial intelligence applications and robust scientific methodologies. The new ecosystem’s findings will mainly contribute to future decision-making, policymaking and planning process.
“This is part of ECA’s responsibilities to conduct research and specialized studies in ECD, reviewing best practices locally, regionally and internationally, proposing strategic solutions and recommendations.
ECA’s researcher further noted that ECA is creating systems and platforms to drive excellence and innovation in the ECD sector, by coordinating and collaborating with the relevant entities to develop the necessary plans for the ECD programs and services.
The five awarded research projects include two studies on chronic absenteeism among young children in Abu Dhabi. The first research team is made up of academics from the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), including principal investigator Dr. Qilong Zhang, and co-principal investigators Dr. Najwa Alhosani and Dr. Ghadah Al Murshidi. The second research study is also aimed at exploring the causes of school absenteeism in young children in Abu Dhabi. This research is led by Dr. Brien Ashdown from the American University of Sharjah.
The ECA will also fund two research projects aimed to evaluate health professionals’ knowledge and attitudes with regard to supporting young children of determination and their families in Abu Dhabi. The research is led by a team from the Emirates College of Advanced Education, including principal investigator Dr. Michelle Kelly, and co-principal investigators Prof. Shaljan Areepattamannil, Ms. Amina Al Jasmi, Dr. Clodagh Murray, and Dr. Bryan Roche. The second study on this topic will be comprised of academics from the UAEU, including principal investigator Dr. Emma Pearson, and co-principal investigators Dr. Rami Al-Rifai, Dr. Rachel Takriti, Dr. Maria Efstratopoulou, Dr. Ashraf Mustafa, Dr. Maxwell Opoku, Prof. Hala Elhoweris, and Mrs. Omniah Gharib Al-Qahtani.
Another project is focusing on language assessment of Emirati children with atypical language development. The research is led by principal investigator Dr. Dimitrios Ntelitheos, and co-principal investigator Dr. Alexandra Marquis, from United Arab Emirates University.
In line with its vision to ensure that every young child is healthy, confident, curious, able to learn and develop strong values in a safe, family-friendly Abu Dhabi, ECA seeks to design a dedicated process for ECD-related policy and legislation development. The process is defined as a proactive, iterative, participatory, evidence-based one, with strong enforcement and implementation components. In addition, the Authority is reviewing and adjusting current policies and legislation, as well as issuing new policies and/or legislation as required to fill existing ECD-related gaps, promote high-quality services and with the end goal of establishing strong child outcomes.