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NYU Global TIES for Children Finds Substantial Impact from Groundbreaking Ahlan Simsim Initiative Combining Educational Media and Early Childhood Services


New research from NYU Global TIES for Children, an international research center embedded within NYU’s Institute of Human Development and Social Change (IHDSC), finds substantial impact on children’s language, numeracy, and social-emotional development from Ahlan Simsim programs.

22 million children reached through the Ahaln Simsim TV show. more than 1 million reached through Ahlan Simsim direct services for families in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria

Ahlan Simsim (“Welcome Sesame” in Arabic), is an initiative created by Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to deliver early childhood development and learning to children affected by conflict and crisis in the Middle East. The findings demonstrate the power of integrating educational media with early childhood development services, with significant implications for delivering early learning in humanitarian and other contexts where traditional in-person schooling is not possible. 

Ahlan Simsim is the largest early childhood intervention in the history of humanitarian response, reaching more than 1 million children and caregivers through direct early childhood services and playful learning in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria and over 23 million children across the Middle East and North Africa through a locally produced Arabic language version of Sesame Street. It was launched with the support of the MacArthur Foundation’s first-ever $100 million 100&Change award, and additional support from the LEGO Foundation.

An 11-week Ahlan Simsim preschool program showed effects comparable to a year of in-person preschool.

Key learnings from the study include:

  • The potential of a groundbreaking new approach to media-integrated remote preschool programs
  • The power of education mass media to improve foundational social-emotional skills, which are critical for children’s long-term success
  • Insights into how remote parenting programs can be designed to improve caregiver mental health

Results from this study were first announced in the IRC’s May 16, 2023 press release. To learn more about Ahlan Simsim, visit the Ahlan Simsim website. You can also watch episodes on Ahlan Simsim's YouTube channel and explore the library of resources at

Related Centers and Institutes

The Institute of Human Development and Social Change

IHDSC is the largest interdisciplinary institute on New York University's Washington Square campus supporting rigorous research and training across social, behavioral, educational, policy, and health sciences.

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Global TIES for Children

Global TIES for Children is an international research center at New York University dedicated to designing, evaluating and advising on programs and policies to improve the lives of children and youth in the most vulnerable regions across the globe.

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