Learning by Playing with LEGO

The LEGO Foundation welcomed global education and childhood development experts to its annual Idea Conference at LEGO House in Billund, Denmark, known as the ‘home of the brick.’

The LEGO Idea Conference is a call for the disruption of traditional education systems as the LEGO Foundation firmly believes that the current education system is not fit for purpose, and does not prepare children for a future in a complex, constantly changing world. Thought leaders, practitioners, researchers, government representatives, and social innovators came together to discuss different approaches, with a focus on learning through play and to discuss how we might address the global learning crisis and ensure children develop the breadth of skills they will 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.

“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.” Explained John Goodwin, Chief Executive Officer at the LEGO Foundation. “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.” Goodwin continued. “We have convened 400 experts to discuss and contribute tangible solutions towards evolving traditional educational systems and approaches.”

This year’s Idea Conference also marked 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 was 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.

“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.

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.

“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,” Sir Fazle added.

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.

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

Tom Atkinson is a Digital Producer & Photographer at R3Digital and Reviews & Dept. Editor at Tech Trends. Connect on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter @R3Digital

Technology writer for FastCo, Quartz, The Next Web, Ars Technica, Wired + more. Consultant specializing in VR #MixedReality and Strategic Communications

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