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Case Study: A game for conflict-affected youth to learn and grow

June 13, 2018 in Community | 5 min. read
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Unity enables the creation of a huge range of games and experiences, including innovative tools for learning and training.  These range from powerful medical simulations to games that help kids learn critical skills like reading and mathematics by making these subjects engaging and playful.

We want to take a moment to highlight a powerful example of one such game, Can’t Wait to Learn, which was developed by the international non-profit organization War Child Holland and partners.

Over 30 million children living in conflict-affected areas cannot access education

There are simply not enough teachers and not enough schools.  Whole generations of children are missing out. When faced with such a daunting challenge, War Child Holland came up with an unorthodox answer: Imagine if gaming could provide a way to bring learning to these children, in a compelling and fun way.

From this idea came Can’t Wait to Learn’s vision:

“Closing the education gap for millions of children affected by conflict globally with effective curriculum-based learning opportunities using gaming technology.”

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This was an extremely aspirational vision, and yet the most exciting part of this Unity game is the very real impact it is having on the youth that War Child Holland serves.

Real results for students who are most vulnerable

The game, developed using Unity software, is designed with and for children.  All games are based on Ministry of Education curriculum and are designed knowing the specific learning opportunities and challenges and cultural context of Jordan, Lebanon, Uganda, and Sudan. The first proof of concept studies for Mathematics, Sudan (2012–2013) and Sudan (2014–2015)  showed that:

  • Children learn significantly from the game. Those who know the least, learn the most.
  • The game promotes a gender-balanced learning experience, which stimulates and retains boys and girls equally.
  • There is a measurable positive effect on self-esteem experienced by children engaged in CWTL.
  • Compared to traditional education approaches in selected countries, CWTL is as effective in supporting the attainment of learning outcomes as traditional education, when measured using EGMA as the standardized assessment.

Further research results for Jordan, Lebanon, and Sudan will be available from the end of 2018 through early 2019.

Can’t Wait to Learn supports and supplements the traditional education model in conflict-affected areas in the short term, without displacing it in the long-term

This program enables children to work towards acquiring Ministry of Education competency levels, in both formal and informal learning environments, thus supporting transition into formal education systems.

In the Can’t Wait to Learn (CWTL) program, children learn by playing educational games on tablet computers. The custom-made games include instruction, practice, and a learning management system. This means that CWTL can provide quality education to all children, no matter their location. It can be delivered in places where there are no (or not enough) classrooms or teachers, both in formal and informal learning settings.

The fresh, interactive learning materials are all based on official national curricula. The educational games are introduced to children in a manner fitting their lifestyle and circumstances. Many different partners, including local Ministries of Education, international and national NGOs and research institutes, along with technical experts in gaming, software design, education and psycho-social well-being, are working together to develop this fun and effective learning tool. CWTL has invested heavily in research to understand how and what children learn through the serious gaming approach in different context and learning modalities and uses nationally and internationally recognized measurement tools and methodologies to build a greater evidence-base to iterate and improve the program and future efforts.

Can’t Wait to Learn offers easy and understandable educative games, with child-centered design

During playful exercises, children learn what they would learn in a traditional school. Games are custom-built for each country and co-created together with local children, designers, and Ministries of Education.

  • All designs and graphics used in CWTL are custom-made, so they are familiar to children. Children’s life stories, their feedback, and drawings from local designers are used to co-create the design of the learning environments.
  • Children discover how their skills are directly applicable in their own lives – and how they can improve the lives of people surrounding them.
  • All instructions are in audio and video. Children who cannot (yet) read or write, can listen and watch the instruction videos as many times as they like.
  • In most cases, children present the instruction videos. Children can relate to these presenters, see them as role models.
  • In pilot studies, children played the mathematics game 45 minutes a day. This was enough to acquire the required skills. This also meant that children still had time for other activities.
  • The open source software of the educational games has been designed in such a way, that games can be adapted to new contexts (other countries and situations) easily and without high licensing costs.

Growing reach and impact

Can’t Wait to Learn started in Sudan in 2012 with one subject, mathematics presented in Arabic. Now they have added reading in Arabic. The program is currently expanding and scaling up, to respond to the education needs of host communities and refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. For the first time, CWTL is developing games in English for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda.  CWTL is beginning in Uganda with maths in English and will expand to English reading in the second half of 2018.

War Child and its partners believe that gaming can bring learning to the most difficult to reach places and circumstances. Find out more about Can’t Wait to Learn.

Can’t Wait to Learn is supported the Dutch National Postcode Lottery, IKEA Foundation,, the Humanitarian Education Accelerator, UNICEF, UNHCR and CISCO Foundation.


For Educators: The Unity Education Edition License is free for qualifying not-for-profit academic institutions and educational programs in support of their in-class instruction. Learn how to apply.

For app developers: Explore other learning and training applications made with Unity.

June 13, 2018 in Community | 5 min. read

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