Global TIES for Children Leads Research for a $100 Million Grant to Promote Learning and Development of Young Refugee Children in the Middle East

Research will be supported by research scientists, staff and students based both at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU New York

Press Release

Global TIES for Children, NYU Steinhardt’s international research center for improving the lives of vulnerable youth across the globe, will be leading the research and evaluation for a $100 million grant awarded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to promote the development and education of young children displaced by conflict in the Middle East.

Global TIES will implement an evidence-based research and evaluation program to measure the success of Sesame Workshop - the nonprofit organization behind American educational children's television series Sesame Street - and the International Rescue Committee (IRC)’s early childhood development programming supporting children and families in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.  

The research will be led by NYU Steinhardt professor and Global TIES Co-Director Hirokazu Yoshikawa, with Co-Investigator and Co-Director of Global TIES Professor J. Lawrence Aber, and Co-Investigator and Project Director Dr. Alice Wuermli.

The project will hire research scientists and additional research staff at NYU Abu Dhabi, who will work closely with the IRC and Sesame Workshop to design and conduct research that evaluates the implementation and impact of child, family, and media programs.  Data will be collected on the ground across the four countries being studied. Faculty from NYU Abu Dhabi have been invited to collaborate, while students based at the university will be able to develop Capstone projects on the initiative and work alongside participating scientists for summer projects.

"This historic initiative, the very first MacArthur Foundation 100&Change project, will build the science and practice of early childhood development in humanitarian settings.  We plan to address one of the urgent global issues of our time - the Syrian refugee crisis - through research to protect and nurture human development in the critical early childhood period.  We are proud to develop a base for this research at NYU Abu Dhabi that involves faculty, research staff and students."


Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Global TIES co-director

The early childhood development intervention research program was created by Sesame Workshop and IRC with the goal of addressing the severe stress experienced by children and caregivers in the Syrian refugee response region. The educational components of the program are designed in consultation with local child development and curriculum experts and will build both breadth and depth of services.

Included within the educational components is new Sesame content, in which culturally tailored Sesame programming will help provide an estimated 9.4 million young children the language, reading, math and socio-emotional skills they need to succeed in school and later in life. All content is set to be publicly available at no cost through television, mobile phones, digital platforms, and direct services in homes.

Sesame Workshop and IRC will also transform community sites, formal and informal care and preschools, and other points of aid into Child Development Centers equipped with storybooks, video clips on pre-loaded projectors, activity sheets, and rich professional development for teachers to enable age-appropriate, play-based learning.

Founded in 2015, Global TIES for Children works with leading NGOs - including the IRC, one of its strategic partners - and governments to develop and evaluate innovative approaches to enhance child and youth development in low-income and conflict-affected countries. The research center is embedded within NYU’s Institute of Human Development and Social Change and is supported by NYUAD and the NYU Abu Dhabi Research Institute.

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About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective undergraduate curriculum across the disciplines with a world center for advanced research and scholarship. The university enables its students in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and arts to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from over 115 countries and speak over 115 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.