Sweta Shah

Center for Universal Education, The Brookings Institution

Sweta Shah is a fellow at the Center for Universal Education in the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution. She specializes in early childhood education and development (ECD) with a particular focus on marginalized children and families in crisis.

Her research, policy, and practice work over 20 years around the world has focused on early learning, holistic child development, and parenting programs in refugee camps and other crisis contexts, hybrid and virtual learning in humanitarian contexts due to COVID-19, and learning while on the move for migrant children and families. Uplifting voices of children and families with lived experience has been a priority in all her work that she continues to champion daily.

She has advised many organizations and governments around early childhood education and development to select models to fund and implement and policies to adopt. She has recently designed an ECD center of excellence in the Middle East. She has written two books: “Young Children in Humanitarian and COVID-19 Crises: Innovations and Lessons from the Global South” (which is open-source) and “Early Childhood Development in Humanitarian Crises: South Sudanese Refugees in Uganda.” Shah co-edited a special issue on ECD in emergencies for the Journal on Education in Emergencies. Additionally, she has written and spoken about early childhood education and development in many media outlets, publications, conferences, and events.

Shah is currently leading a multi-year global early childhood education initiative at the Brookings Institution that aims to provide research and policy recommendations to governments around the world to reach Sustainable Development Goal 4.2 focused on equal access to quality early childhood education and development. She is also exploring the expansion of Playful Learning Landscapes work at Brookings bringing together the science of learning with urban design and placemaking so learning is embedded outside of the classroom where families go—parks, bus stops, supermarkets. Lastly, she is also exploring young children’s learning and development in the context of a changing climate.

Shah is a fellow at Georgetown University’s Collaborative on Global Children’s Issues where she has been investigating issues of children and the migration crisis. She is also a member of the Early Childhood Development Action Network, Moving Minds Alliance, the Early Childhood Leaders of Color Collaborative, and the ECD Task Team at the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies.

Prior to joining the Brookings Institution, Shah co-founded ChildArise, a nonprofit that seeks to transform the lives of young children and families affected by crisis through impact storytelling and creative problem-solving. She also worked in philanthropy and numerous nonprofit organizations implementing early childhood education and development programs.

Shah earned a doctoral degree in education from the Institute of Education at the University College London, a master’s in international development from George Washington University, and a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Bucknell University.

Brookings Profile