Sadaf Shallwani

Sadaf Shallwani

I am an international early childhood and early education researcher and professional, focusing on young children and their families, and the school, community, and broader contexts within which they live and grow. I have training and experience in the disciplines of education, social work (hear me speak in a podcast [mp3] about my social work background), and psychology. In addition to Canada, I have worked in various Majority world contexts, including Pakistan and Kenya (much of this through my work with the Aga Khan Foundation, Geneva).

My work through these different lenses, and in these different contexts, has deepened my understanding of the complexities of childhoods, families, and communities; and the need for research and theory to be contextually grounded and socially relevant. My research, theoretical, and professional work is driven by and guided by these notions.


  • I am the Senior Officer for Learning & Evaluation at Firelight Foundation, a California-based public charity which identifies, funds, and strengthens promising community organizations that support the health, resilience, and education of children in Africa.
  • I am a doctoral candidate studying Developmental Psychology & Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education‘s Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development, University of Toronto (Canada). I am currently completing my dissertation which examines the quality of early primary environments at government schools in Pakistan, and how these early learning environments affect young children’s educational outcomes. This is informing a contextually-grounded conceptualization of school readiness – ‘ready schools’ in particular – in Pakistan.
  • I play a key role in the development and implementation of early childhood programmes and services in and for the Ismaili Muslim community in Canada.

I am interested in research, theory, and practice in a range of areas: early childhood development; early education (pre-primary and primary, and notions of ‘school readiness’); and human development in family, school, community, and broader social contexts. I am particularly interested in deconstructing and reconceptualizing mainstream notions of development and functioning.

My academic, research, and professional work are guided by values of social justice, equity, and human rights, including the rights of children.

Please feel free to get in touch with me around shared research interests, discussions, professional opportunities, and more.

Sadaf Shallwani