So, what do we mean by “quality learning”?

Quality has become an important topic within the global debate around learning and education. The World Bank talks about “The New Horizon in Education – From Access to Quality“. In 2015 the World Education Forum placed “Equitable and Inclusive Quality Education“ at the top of its agenda. And, last September, the United Nations dedicated one of the new Sustainable Development Goals to: “Ensuring equitable and quality education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.”

On 11–13 April 2016, the LEGO Foundation hosted academics, practitioners, innovators, representatives from international education organisations, government officials and social entrepreneurs. The participants addressed what makes a quality learning experience, how can we measure it and implement this knowledge at scale.

Building that "stairway to heaven"

Dear participants at the 2016 LEGO® Idea Conference

Thank you so much for attending this year’s LEGO Idea Conference. I enjoyed every minute with you, every inspiring conversation, the rich discussions in the hallways and the playfulness I saw all round.

Still, the best part of the conference is knowing that what we accomplished together will have an impact on children all over the world in the long term. What has been shared amongst the participants, the real-life examples from six different countries, the four lenses, the inspiring talks and panel discussions are an ignition switch for ideas to improve learning and put quality into action.

This year, Pasi Sahlberg turned on his favourite tune and gave us a lecture on both the Lemming Effect and “The facts and the myths about the quality of education”. We might ask ourselves whether we managed to build additional steps on the stairway to heaven of education? What did we learn about quality learning?

One thing that stands out for me is that quality starts with teachers and parents. Like learning and play, they, too, make the wings of a butterfly. Quality learning can happen if teachers and parents see eye to eye on what kind of learning environments actually benefit children.

The recognition of teachers is important. If teachers receive the same respect from their environment and trust from parents and authorities, as well as having the appropriate physical spaces at their disposal, it will inevitably contribute to attracting more and better teachers to our education systems.

Individual teachers can change the world for their students. They can let the children be at the centre of the learning process, and have control over their own learning processes.

Pasi Sahlberg received the LEGO Prize 2016 in recognition of his outstanding efforts to improve the quality of children’s learning worldwide. One of Pasi’s important points is that we need to define what we are doing right, and do more of that. Which implies that we also need to find out what we are doing wrong, and stop doing that.

Professor Phillip Fisher supported this approach with his argument that we have to measure the effect of the concrete initiatives we implement to inform our own views about what constitutes quality in learning. Theories and knowledge are merely that, unless they get converted into applied research. Only by conducting scientifically based analysis of cause and effect can we gain insights into what is needed to create quality learning.

The challenge is to inject these findings into our governments and systems. We need to create a framework that allows for diverse curricula that don’t only focus on learning a specific, pre-determined set of skills. Instead they should take a holistic approach to learning by combining a content focus with physical, social, emotional, creative and cognitive aspects of children’s learning. In a couple of months, we will share with you a report with the key findings from this conference. Together, it is our responsibility to inject them into the global education debate and major platforms such as the UN General Assembly. All with the ambition to fuel the global debate and to create a framework for quality learning in education.

Yours sincerely
Hanne Rasmussen


The three-day conference offered a vibrant, playful and thought-provoking environment for group dialogues and impactful workshops. Our conference design asked for active involvement, as well as a willingness to dare to tinker with ideas and come up with new solutions – together – in a playful and yet serious atmosphere.


Hanne Rasmussen
CEO of The LEGO Foundation
Pasi Sahlberg
Pasi Sahlberg is a Finnish educator, author and scholar.
Amanda E. Devercelli
Senior Education Specialist with the World Bank.
Hirokazu Yoshikawa
Hirokazu Yoshikawa is the Courtney Sale Ross Professor of Globalization and Education at the Steinhardt School of New York University, and a university professor there.
Jack P. Shonkoff
Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University
Philip A. Fisher
Philip Knight Endowed Professor of Psychology and Research Scientist at the Prevention Science Institute Center for Translational Neuroscience at the University of Oregon
Alastair Blyth
Consultant analyst at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Rebecca Winthrop
Senior fellow and director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution
Dr Dina Ocampo
Undersecretary for Programs and Projects, Republic of the Philippines
Kathrina Lucasan
Office of the Philippine Undersecretary for Curriculum and Instruction
Jacqueline Ladera
Grade 10 Science Master Teacher, the Philippines
Randy Halasan
Pegalongan Elementary School, the Philippines
Camilla Uhre Fog
Head of School, International School of Billund
Mitch Resnick
LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research and Director of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab
Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek
Stanley and Debra Lefkowitz Faculty Fellow in the Department of Psychology at Temple University and a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution
Roberta Michnick Golinkoff
Roberta Michnick Golinkoff (Ph.D., Cornell University) is Unidel H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Education, Psychology, and Linguistics and Cognitive Science at the University of Delaware
Elisheba Iminza Khayeri
Head Teacher and Programme Officer at Access Education International Nairobi, Kenya
Janeanne Kiviu
Educationist specialised in curriculum development and evaluation, Kenya
Fidelis J. Nakhulo
Deputy Director, Quality Assurance & Standards Ministry of Education Science & Technology, Kenya
David Wish
Founder and Executive Director, Little Kids Rock
Brent Hutcheson
Director of two companies – Hands on Technologies and Care for Education NPO – an Ashoka fellow and a teacher.
Richard Buery
New York Deputy Mayor For Strategic Policy Initiatives
Nathalia Mesa
Founder and executive director of aeioTU – Fundacion Carulla
Oliver Percovich
Founded Skateistan

Hanne Rasmussen joined the LEGO Foundation on 1 March 2015 and she has more than 20 years of experience with humanitarian and development work. She comes from a position as Chief Operating Officer (COO) in SOS Children’s Villages International – a global organisation with 30,000 employees and programmes covering as much as 2 million people.

Here Hanne’s main responsibility has been the global programme work – children’s development, SOS Children’s villages, schools, social centres and emergency relief. Previous work experience includes Danish Refugee Council, where she was a marketing consultant and fundraiser and heading up UNICEF Denmark as Deputy Secretary-General. Hanne holds an MBA from Henly Management College, UK

Pasi Sahlberg has worked as schoolteacher, teacher educator, researcher and policy advisor in Finland, and has studied and advised education reforms around the world. He speaks and writes internationally about improving quality and equity of education, pedagogy and leadership in schools, and advocates the crucial role of play in schools. He has won several awards for his work on global educational change, including the Finnish Educator Award 2012, the Grawemeyer Award 2013 and the Robert Owen Award 2014. He serves on the Advisory Board of Open Society Foundations, Center on International Education Benchmarking and the Board of Directors at the University of Oulu in Finland. He is a former Director General of the Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation in Finland. Currently he is a visiting Professor of Practice at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, MA, USA, and Adjunct Professor at the Universities of Helsinki and Oulu in Finland.

Featured videos about Pasi Sahlberg

Conversation with John Hattie

Grawemeyer Award 2013

WISE 2013

In 2012, Amanda E. Devercelli launched the World Bank’s Early Learning Partnership. The USD 30 million multi-donor fund builds programmes, policies and research to deliver quality early learning for young children. Amanda co-led the development of the Systems Approach for Better Education Results-Early Childhood Development (SABER-ECD). She leads operational and analytical work across the Bank’s portfolio, including in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Pakistan, Peru, Sierra Leone and Uzbekistan. Her current research areas include engaging the non-state sector in early learning and the linkages between early learning and later skills.Prior to joining the World Bank, Amanda spent two years in Kenya developing community-based education programmes and many years in Washington, DC working with NGOs promoting international development, including ONE, (RED) and Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, TB and Malaria. Amanda has a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and was awarded the Reynolds Fellowship in Social Enterprise by the Harvard Kennedy School. She hones her understanding of child development by keeping up with two (mostly) delightful young children.

Hirokazu Yoshikawa is a community and developmental psychologist who studies the effects that public policies and programmes related to immigration, early childhood development and poverty reduction, have on child development. He conducts research in the United States and in low- and middle-income countries.  With Larry Aber, he co-directs the Global TIES for Children (Transforming Intervention Effectiveness and Scale), a New York University centre devoted to research on programmes and policies for children in low-income and conflict-affected countries. He also currently serves as the Co-Chair of the ECD and education workgroup of the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the research and technical group advising the Secretary-General on the development and implementation of the 2015–2030 Sustainable Development Goals. He serves on the boards of the Early Childhood Program of the Open Society Foundations, and on the advisory board for the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report.

Featured videos about Hirokazu Yoshikawa

Jack P. Shonkoff is the Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Graduate School of Education; and Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital. He currently serves as chair of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. In 2011, he launched the Frontiers of Innovation Initiative, a multi-sectoral collaboration committed to achieving breakthrough outcomes for young children facing adversity. Under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, he served as Chair of the Board on Children, Youth, and Families and chaired the committee that produced the report: From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. He has authored more than 150 publications, including 9 books.

Philip A. Fisher is Science Director for the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs and a Senior Fellow at the Center on the Developing Child, both based at Harvard University. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Oregon Social Learning Center. Dr. Fisher’s work on disadvantaged and maltreated children includes (a) studies to understand the effects of early stress on the developing brain; (b) the development of two-generation prevention and treatment programmes to improve high-risk children’s (and their caregivers’’) well-being and brain functioning; and (c) advocacy for science-based policy and practice to improve early learning and healthy development in high-risk children. His work has been funded by a number of institutes of the US National Institutes of Health. He serves on a number of US national advisory groups related to prevention science and community-based research. His intervention programmes are being implemented at sites throughout the United States and Europe. He is the recipient of the 2012 Society for Prevention Research Translational Science Award.

Featured videos about Philip A. Fisher

The video features Phil and his video coaching programme, Filming Interactions to Nurture Development (FIND). Created by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

Alastair Blyth is currently working at the OECD Centre for Effective Learning Environments (CELE) and works across OECD countries with policy makers, educators and designers on better understanding the connection between school buildings and learning, carrying out research and analysis. He also manages the Learning Environments Evaluation Programme (LEEP), an international study that asks how school buildings can more effectively support teaching and learning. He led the OECD survey on learning environments that resulted in CELE’s flagship publication Designing for Education: Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities 2011, which draws examples from 28 countries in Australasia, Latin America, North America and Europe. He also led OECD country policy reviews in Portugal and Mexico on the effectiveness of school building modernisation and renovation programmes, and has taken part in other OECD education reviews.

Alastair is also a UK registered architect.

Featured videos about Alastair Blyth

Rebecca Winthrop’s research focuses on education in the developing world, with special attention paid to improving quality learning for the most marginalised children and young people. She was the former head of education for the International Rescue Committee and has worked on the UN Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative, Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative and the Clinton Global Initiative. She received a BA from Swarthmore College, an MA from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and a PhD from Columbia University, Teachers College.


Dr Dina Ocampo is a key player in the implementation of the Philippines’ K-12 education reform programme. Facing huge challenges with her colleagues and teams under the aspirational leadership of Secretary of Education, Brother Armin Luistro, she is an inspiring role model of dedication and perseverance. With deep knowledge of the education sector combined with her academic expertise, she guides the reform in curriculum, teaching and assessment, to bring about higher-quality education for everyone in the Philippines. Her input to the 2016 LEGO® Idea Conference will provide a model for scaling up initiatives while maintaining focus on quality.

Ms Kathrina Lucasan serves as a link between the Undersecretary for Curriculum and Instruction bureaus and offices within its jurisdiction. She provided technical input and support in designing the curriculum development and finalisation process, managed the planning, preparation, implementation and monitoring of curriculum writing and review, and structured the competency coding system used to connect instructional materials and assessment items to the corresponding learning competency. She also managed collaborative work between bureaus to process curriculum content with regard to specific learning areas, and identify both essential skills and 21st-century skills embedded in each learning area.

Ms Jacqueline Ladera will be playing a key role in the Grade 11–12 senior high school implementation at Marikina High School. She is also a Coach Instructor – a testament to her insights into teaching practice. Her input to the LEGO Idea Conference will be particularly valuable in providing insights into classroom conditions, and how to provide a high-quality learning environment through passion, creativity and enthusiasm for ensuring the accessibility of the curriculum.

Mr Randy Halasan has served as a bridge between school, community and government, as well as being instrumental in facilitating extension of his elementary school to the secondary levels so that students can now continue their education. His input would be valuable for the LEGO Idea Conference in particular for highlighting the benefits of working across sectors.

Camilla Uhre Fog has been a part of ISB since its inception.  A teacher by training and an innovator by trade, she was serving as Director of Programmes and Partnerships at the LEGO Foundation when appointed to chair the fledgling ISB School Board in 2012. Camilla later left her position with the Foundation to go “all in” as Head of School at ISB, an independent, private institution with a mandate to demonstrate the power of learning through play in a real-world setting.  Since it’s opening in 2013, ISB has more than quadrupled in size to include 250 students representing close to 40 nationalities.

As Head of School, Camilla oversees ISB’s many collaborations and partnerships; among them a long-term research project with Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Mitch Resnick’s research group has developed a variety of educational tools that engage people in new types of design activities and creative learning experiences, including the Scratch programming language and the “programmable bricks“ that were the basis for the award-winning LEGO Mindstorms robotics kits. Mitch Resnick is a winner of the 2011 Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education. In 2011, Fast Company listed him as one of the 100 most creative people in business.


TED Talk

Featured videos about Mitch Resnick

Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek’s research examines the development of early language and literacy as well as the role of play in learning. With her long-term collaborator, Roberta Golinkoff, she is author of 14 books and hundreds of other publications. She is the recipient of the American Psychological Association’s Bronfenbrenner Award, the American Psychological Association’s Award for Distinguished Service to Psychological Science, the Association for Psychological Science James McKeen Cattell Award and the APA Distinguished Lecturer Award. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society, is the President Elect of the International Society for Infant Studies and served as the Associate Editor of Child Development. She is on the steering committee of the Latin American School for Education, Cognitive and Neural Sciences as well as on the advisory board for Vroom, the Boston Children’s Museum and Jumpstart.

Featured videos about Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek

Roberta Michnick Golinkoff has won numerous awards for her work including the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and the Urie Bronfenbrenner award. With her longstanding colleague Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, she is the 2015 recipient of the James McKeen Cattell Award for lifetime contributions to applied psychological science. She routinely travels the world to speak to academic and lay groups. Having written over 150 articles, she is an expert on language development, playful learning and early spatial knowledge. Some of her 14 books are directed to parents and practitioners; the latest is Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells us About Raising Successful Children (APA Press). Passionate about dissemination, she is a co-founder of the Ultimate Block Party movement that brings the science of learning to the streets.

Featured videos about Roberta Michnick Golinkoff

Ms Elisheba Iminza Khayeri is a teacher by profession and has served for 35 years, rising up the ranks to Head Teacher. She holds a Higher Diploma in Psychological Counselling, a Diploma in Education Management from Strathmore University and a Bachelor of Education and Counselling degree from Kenya Methodist University.

She was an official of the Kenya Primary Schools Head Teachers Association and innovated the Children’s Government project in 2014. She has participated in different workshops organised by MOEST, UNICEF and UNESCO, travelling to Japan, Britain, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda and Tanzania.

The ultimate objective has been to make schools more child-friendly, and this is reflected in her ongoing working partnerships with UNICEF, Connecting Classrooms by the British Council, Plan International and the Israeli Institute for Education for Sustainable Development.

Ms Janeanne Kiviu has received a Head of State Commendation Award by the president of Kenya for her contribution to the development of education and general good of her country. She serves on several national committees as a technical advisor on issues of language and educational assessment. She is a member of the Kenya Learning Champions secretariat. Ms Kiviu has a bachelor’s degree in education and will soon also graduate with a master’s degree in research and evaluation. She speaks three international languages – English, German and Kiswahili.

Mr Fidelis J. Nakhulo holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, along with a post-graduate Diploma in Education from University of Nairobi. He was a classroom teacher for nine years before becoming head teacher in 1991. He rose in rank to become Senior Principal in 2006, and joined the Ministry Headquarters in 2007. Mr Fidelis has attended courses – both locally and abroad – on management and leadership, including an M.Ed. He is deeply involved in improving education quality through improving the quality of teachers and the development of holistic assessment tools. Mr Fidelis is also a member of the Learning Metrics Champion team.

Co-authored education materials for UNICEF

  • Child Friendly Schools Kenya Manual
  • Child Friendly Schools Training Manual
  • Disaster Risk Reduction – A Manual for Education Managers

Author of

  • Teaching Large Classes

National coordinator of

  • Education for Sustainable Development Programme
  • Child Friendly School Programme

David Wish is the Founder and Executive Director of Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit organisation that funds and runs the largest, free instrumental music programmes in US public schools. Dave has initiated and managed the launch of campaigns to restore and revitalise music education for over 500,000 low-income children in ten US states. As a social entrepreneur, Dave has been honoured by organisations that include Ashoka, the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, the Kenneth A. Picerne Foundation and the Goldhirsh Foundation.

Featured videos about David Wish

He is also the LEGO Foundation partner for South Africa. He taught for over 10 years and during this time developed a passion for working with children and a strong desire to change the way schools work with children.

He believes that learning should take place through construction rather than instruction, and that many more concrete, tactile tools or manipulatives should be used, not only to stimulate and encourage the learners, but also to greatly accelerate the conceptualisation process and to allow children to become more inventive, curious and creative.

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Richard Buery leads priority interagency efforts to increase educational opportunity for New Yorkers and uplift working families through City services. He is the architect of Pre-K for All, the Community Schools Initiative and School’s Out NYC, New York City’s afterschool programme for middle school students. He chairs the NYC Children’s Cabinet, oversees the Mayor’s Young Men’s Initiative and has been charged with spearheading the implementation of ThriveNYC to overhaul the New York mental health system. Born and raised in East New York, Brooklyn to immigrant parents, Deputy Mayor Buery has dedicated his life to improving outcomes for young people in America’s most disadvantaged communities. After graduating from Stuyvesant High School, he matriculated at Harvard College at age 16. As a student there, he co-founded the Mission Hill Summer Program, an enrichment programme for children in the Mission Hill Housing Development in the Roxbury section of Boston. He went on to establish two other non-profit organisations, iMentor and Groundwork, Inc.

Nathalia was born in Medellin, Colombia, where she grew up interested in solving social problems in the city that she lived in, which led her to become a Business Administrator and Economist at the University of Georgia. Her professional life has been dedicated to the promotion of sustainable development in Latin America. She started as an economist researcher at the Latin American Center for Competitiveness and Sustainable Development, at INCAE Business School in Costa Rica. She then worked for eight years at AVINA, a foundation with Swiss origins that invests throughout Latin America in social entrepreneurs and high impact networks ( She led important foundation-wide initiatives, such as the establishment of the balanced scorecard system for the measurement of results and the design of investment strategies in several regions and countries. She was responsible for the Strategic Initiatives of AVINA for the last two years in the organisation. AeioTU is a social enterprise that develops the potential of 13,300 children across 13 communities in Colombia through a network of 28 early childhood development centres (

Featured videos about Nathalia Mesa

Oliver Percovich first skated in an empty pool at the age of six, while growing up in Papua New Guinea. In 2007, Oliver moved to Afghanistan from Australia when his girlfriend took a job in Kabul.

Bored, he would skate the beleaguered city, and became a sort of pied half-piper, attracting street kids who would follow him around and ask for rides. Shortly after, Oliver founded Skateistan, a grassroots “Sport for Development” project on the streets of Kabul.

Today, Skateistan is an award-winning international organisation with projects in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa. The organisation is the first international development initiative to combine skateboarding with educational outcomes. Skateistan is non-political, independent and inclusive of all ethnicities, religions and social backgrounds, offering both skating and general education classes for over 1500 boys and girls each week.




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