Projects and Research Activities

Early Child Development and Learning Benchmarks for Pakistan (2018-2019)

Measuring and monitoring development and learning of the child is crucial during preschool years in order to assess age appropriate developmental needs and to plan and design curriculum for quality Early Childhood Education (ECE) that ensures holistic development. Early Child Development and Learning Benchmarks for Pakistan (ECDL-BP) is a research project of Human development programme of Aga Kahn University that is funded by The British Asian Trust.  The main objectives of the project are to develop, pre-test, validate (content and construct) and assess reliability of a child development and learning benchmarking tool for Pre-schoolers (3 to 6 years). The research will be conducted in public and private schools of three towns in Karachi. The ultimate aim of this project is to establish benchmarks for early child development and learning outcomes for preschool children that ultimately can be used to measure the progress of the child and school against achieving SDG Target 4.2, focused on ECD and learning.


​The Village Project - supporting children of parents with mental illness in Austria (Research Group Village of the Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft in cooperation with the Medical University Innsbruck) (2018-2021).

Children of parents with a mental illness (COPMI) often need additional supports to lead the happy and healthy lives they desire. In some cases though, those supports are either not available or not found by families, resulting in negative long-term outcomes for these children. This four-year research project aims to increase identification and strengthen formal and informal supports around children when their parents have a mental illness. This project will be co-developed with stakeholders and will implement and evaluate two practice approaches, focused on the child and on principles of collaborative care. The project utilizes a realist framework (as well as implementation science principles, and the theory of symbolic interactionism) and mixed method-ologies, and involves numerous data collection methods including: literature reviews, questionnaires, focus groups, interviews, and observations to determine the impact and benefits of providing increased supports for COPMI in Austria. village website.  Project has initiated a twitter and you tube channel.


Schools Improvement Programme (2018-2021)

​HDP is working to bring about gender, equity and disability awareness/ sensitivity to Gilgit Baltistan and Chitral priority valleys as part of ‘School Improvement Programme (SIP)’. SIP project started in 2016 in schools within the Priority Valleys. Project aims to cover all school in these valleys over time range of 2018-2021. After 2021 the project will proceed to work on schools beyond these valleys within Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral.


As ‘Early childhood development programme’, part of SIP project, HDP’s work in these schools will focus on developing Head teacher and Teachers’ competencies in inclusive, gender sensitive, innovative and child-centred pedagogies.

The project also aims for building complementarities and synergies across AKDN agencies and seeks to design coherent programming for the beneficiaries.


Promoting Social and Emotional development for Peacebuilding among preschoolers – A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial (2018-2019)

This research project will provide useful insights for the refinement of early childhood education (ECE) curriculum towards a more comprehensive framework, addressing the needs of young children for social, emotional, and moral, as well as peacebuilding. The project’s goals and objectives focus on structural violence and social justice aspects. Communities and schools are a major focus of peacebuilding around the world; this project will be looking at the efficacy of peacebuilding curricula to improve prosocial behavior, problem solving, developing conflict resolution skills and living in harmony, among preschool children. The findings of this project will provide practical implications for introducing peacebuilding curricula in public and private schools of Pakistan.

​Community Mobilization Programme (CMP) (2016-2018)

The Sindh Community Mobilization Program (CMP) is a 5 year program that commenced in 2013, as part of the Sindh Basic Education Program (SBEP) under an agreement between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Government of Sindh (GOS). With funding from USAID, Blumont (previously named the International Relief and Development IRD) and its partner organizations implement CMP in seven districts of Sindh (namely, Khairpur, Sukkur, Larkana, Dadu, Kambar Shahdadkot, Jacobabad and Kashmore) and five towns of Karachi (namely, Gadap, Keemari, Lyari, Bin Qasim and Orangi). CMP focuses on increasing girl’s enrollment in schools and improving school children’s health and hygiene, through community mobilization.

Malnutrition and the morbidity associated with it are a major cause of absenteeism and dropouts in schools of Pakistan. As part of a 25-month technical support project, the Aga Khan University-Human Development Programme (AKU-HDP) supported nutrition and hygiene focused research and capacity building in CMP. As part of the research component, a survey was done to assess school children’s knowledge, attitude and practices (KAP) related to nutrition, hygiene and safe environment. Findings of the KAP survey were used to design trainings of trainers and refresher trainings of CMP partners as part of the capacity building component, which resulted in development of a Nutrition and Hygiene Education Manual and accompanying power point presentations (put pictures of manual and power points). Findings of the KAP survey also formed the basis of engaging school children in development of posters and promoted healthy eating and good personal and environmental hygiene practices in children facebook and Video


Formative action research (FAR) was conducted with five selected communities to identify preferred sources of information and develop media messages for mass awareness campaigns. Participatory action research (PAR) was conducted with the same five communities to develop innovative models for addressing the underlying causes of children’s malnutrition through community mobilization.


Mainstreaming Children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Girl Child in Government and Primary Schools  (2016–2017)

The project on mainstreaming children with special educational needs  and adolescent girls in govern-ment and private schools is part of the U.S. government’s Let Girls Learn initiative and is funded by USAID through its 'Small Grants Ambassador's Fund Program'. It builds on HDP’s previous work on children with disabilities and issues of girls’ accessing education.

The project is being implemented in 08 government and private mainstream schools in Sukkur and Hyderabad districts. The 14 months project aims to promote inclusion of adolescent girls, with and without special education needs in its focused schools.  The project aims to mobilize communities and teachers to bring children with SEN and girl child to mainstream schools, look at how disability and gender is addressed in schools and introduce strategies to enhance the knowledge and skills of parents and teachers to manage children with physical or cognitive challenges, and increase the enrolment of girls aged 10-19 years. The project will also help develop a conductive learning environment in its schools by conducting comprehensive training of members of teaching and administrative staff.


Assessing Developmental Health Status and School Readiness of children through Early Development Instrument (EDI) (2013-2016)

The Early Development Instrument (EDI) is a population-based measure, to evaluate the developmental health status and school readiness of groups of children at the level of classes, schools and communities. The instrument is designed to assess at risk children and at large to identify population based vulnerability.

Human Development Programme used EDI to conduct a research study looking at the school readiness and developmental health status of around 13000 children from Katchi and class I children across 400+ schools in Karachi. This project was undertaken in collaboration with the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Offord Centre for Childhood Studies (OCCS) at McMaster University. The project was funded by the Government of Canada, through Global Affairs Canada (GAC) under the  initiative of Partnership for Advancing Human Development in Africa and Asia (PAHDAA). Dissemination Seminar-Assessing childhood vulnerability through early development instrument.


Early Childhood Development Project, Baluchistan (2011- 2015)

Initiated in 2011 the Early Childhood Development Project, Baluchistan–Ensuring the Best Start in Life for Children aimed to enhance the access, equity and quality of education in early years in three districts (Qilla Saifullah, Quetta and Gwadar) of Baluchistan Province. This project was led by Aga Khan Foundation, Pakistan (AKF-P) and was funded by AusAID. AKU-HDP was a technical partner in the project and assisted in the establishment of a Family Resource Center (FRC) in each district, building the capacity of local NGO partners and development of contextually appropriate awareness and advocacy material. The FRC aimed to enhance parenting skills related to child care and nurture, building secure attachments and providing age appropriate stimulation for physical and cognitive development of around 1500 young children. Community health workers, teachers and FRC staff were provided capacity building opportunities through multiple trainings in areas such as; antenatal care, basic concepts of ECD, brain development, nutrition, play, safe environment and inclusion. AKU-HDP also conducted research studies and developed material for awareness and advocacy.

These FRCs provided parenting education and developed nurturing skills of parents and caregivers through structured parenting education sessions. Play based age appropriate activities helped parents and children to understand each other's needs, to build attachments and to provide stimulation for holistic development. Links to the executive summaries of the ECDB project reports are shared below:

ECDB-FRC:Baseline Survey Report-2012, FRC: End of Project Rreport

Action Research Report Formative Action Research on use of Media


Education Development and Improvement Programme (EDIP) (2010- 2012)

E​ducation Development and Improvement Programme was implemented in Gilgit Baltistan from 2010-2013. The overall goal of EDIP was to contribute to the overall socio-economic development of Gilgit-Baltistan through enhancing access and equity; improving the quality and relevance of education and strengthening the governance and management of education sector. An important guiding principal of EDIP was the commitment to work with diversity, developing an inclusive approach, which included the poorest and the most disadvantaged and those with disabilities. During 2010–2012 AKU-HDP partnered EDIP and undertook a community based survey for assessing the prevalence of disability in children 0-15 years in four districts of Gilgit-Baltistan. Specific objectives were to assess the burden of childhood disabilities, to explore perceptions of various stakeholders such as parents, teachers, community members, NGOs etc. regarding disabilities and to identify existing resources/services available for children with disabilities in the community using community mapping. EDIP Report


Releasing Confidence and Creativity (RCC) Programme (2003-2011)

RCC​ Programme an ECD programme implemented by SEF (Sindh Education Foundation), TRC (Teachers’ Recourse Centre), AKU-IED, AKU-HDP technical partners and AKESP, SCSPEB (Society For Community Support For Primary Education In Baluchistan and HANDS implementing partners under the overall supervision of AKFP and  was in field from 2003 -2011. AKU-HDP designed and implemented a research-based home-visitation Early Childhood Development (ECD) Parenting Programme under Releasing Confidence and Creativity (RCC). The Programme was implemented in the provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan and aimed at improving the developmental status of children by enhancing the childcare practices and home environment. The overall goal of RCC: ECD Programme was to support children's development as confident, capable, creative, and caring people, through enhancing the context within which they develop. These contexts include children's classrooms and schools, their families and communities, and the broader policy and system environment. The Programme executed a home-visitation project for antenatal mothers and 0-8 year old children reaching almost 2000 families and 4500 children via 55 Early Child Development Workers (ECDWs). These ECDWs were young women from the local communities, who were trained with basic ECD knowledge and skill and community work and provided a foundation for holistic child development (health, nutrition and psychological needs).​​​

The programme also developed and delivered Training workshops on various topics related to ECD. These workshops trained 950 grassroots to mid-level professionals associated with RCC: ECD programme partners and staff members of other organization working for children and families in various sectors. During this project HDP has developed an easily comprehensible and culturally appropriate ‘Care for Development Appraisal Tool for Assessing and Monitoring Child Development: First Three Years (CDA tool), for assessing children.