Global Symposium on Post-Pandemic Play: Troubling the global narrative of ‘learning loss’

Global Symposium on Post-Pandemic Play:  Troubling the global narrative of ‘learning loss’


03 March 2022    
09:00 - 11:00


Event Type

How play can help children transition to post-Covid societies

Over the past 2 years, more than 1.6 billion children have had their learning disrupted by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic (UNESCO). In low and middle-income countries, an additional 140 million children are projected to be living with their households below the poverty line than prior to the onset of the coronavirus. Other estimates show that, due to Covid or related complications, 1.3 million children have experienced the death of a primary caregiver. Close to half the world’s children are still being affected by prolonged school closures.

In the face of these figures, the narrative of ‘learning loss’ which has pervaded global discussions relating to education appears inadequate. Yet it is the most ubiquitous narrative – and indeed framework – through which education response has been manifested since the incipience of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child highlights that continued exposure to stress can be harmful to children’s developmental outcomes. As the numbers above highlight, the pandemic has become one such stressor for children across the globe. But the catch-all term ‘learning loss’ is a deficit narrative. It does not inherently prioritise wellbeing, connote a whole-child approach to recuperation, or frame next-steps thinking in terms of possibilities – only problems. This narrow framework therefore misses key developmental concerns essential to supporting both learning and wellbeing.

As global researchers in Education, we recognise that play has a central, important and strategic role in how children can move forward – particularly those in the early years of childhood. Play comes naturally to children, and it has been successfully harnessed for the benefit of children in schools, but also in family settings and other spaces of informal learning. Play is therefore a highly conducive medium to help children cope with the challenges brought about by the pandemic, even as the pandemic itself changes shape and continues to affect our lives.

Our consortium of 11 researchers from multiple institutions and country contexts has launched a symposium to examine how play can offer new scope and scale in post-pandemic work. Funded by BAICE and hosted virtually by Cambridge’s Faculty of Education, with further support from The Centre for Education and International Development at UCL, BRAC University, and the Early Start at The University of Wollongong, the symposium will convene speakers, thought leaders and participants in the field of education to discuss how play can be incorporated in global post-Covid work.

Join us to discuss global perspectives on play as a post-pandemic strategy for children which troubles the narrative of ‘learning loss’ and explores instead a whole-child approach to moving learning forward.

Date: Thursday March 3, 2022

Times: Two session options are available to accommodate different time zones.
Session 1 (9-11 am GMT)
Session 2 (8-10 pm GMT)

Registration Link:

Contact: Sabilah Eboo Alwani –

Sabilah Eboo Alwani is a Doctoral Candidate at Cambridge’s Faculty of Education. Her research examines parent support for early learning during the Covid-19 crisis, particularly through play and other modalities. Her research is affiliated with Cambridge’s REAL Centre for Equitable Access to Education, and Cambridge’s LEGO-funded PEDAL Centre, which studies the role of play in learning. She is a Google Research Innovator, and has published on the effects of parental education on early childhood learning in India. Her career spans media, education, technology, and international development, and has a strong focus on early childhood. Sabilah is the founder and convenor of the Global Symposium on Post-Pandemic Play.