Professor Eric A. Hanushek and Dr Rukmini Banerji have been awarded the 2021 Yidan Prize, the world’s highest education accolade, in recognition of their ground-breaking work addressing a crucial piece of the education puzzle: improving quality of education and outcomes for learners at scale.
Following a rigorous judging process, conducted by an independent judging committee of recognized education experts, Hanushek and Banerji were selected as the recipients of the 2021 Yidan Prize for Education Research and Yidan Prize for Education Development. They will join nine laureates who have been awarded the Yidan Prize since its inception in 2016, established by the Yidan Prize Foundation – a global philanthropic education foundation that inspires progress and change in education.
Professor Hanushek, a Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow and Professor, Hoover Institution of Stanford University, USA, is awarded the 2021 Yidan Prize for Education Research. His work focuses on education outcomes and the importance of teaching quality and has transformed both research and policy internationally. His work helped shape the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 (ensure inclusive and equitable quality education) by reframing targets for learning outcomes and has shown that it’s how much students learn – and not how many years they spend in school – that boosts economies.
“Like no one else, Eric has been able to link the fields of economics and education. From designing better and fairer systems for evaluating teacher performance to linking better learning outcomes to long-run economic and social progress, he has made an amazing range of education policy areas amenable to rigorous economic analysis.” said Mr Andreas Schleicher, head of the Yidan Prize for Education Research judging panel, and director for the OECD’s Directorate of Education and Skills.
With the Yidan Prize funding, Professor Hanushek is planning a research fellow program in Africa, supporting analytical capacity to shape education policies from a local perspective.
Dr Banerji, Chief Executive Officer of the Pratham Education Foundation, India, is awarded the 2021 Yidan Prize for Education Development for her work in improving learning outcomes. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) assessment approach, pioneered by Dr Banerji and her team in India, revealed literacy and numeracy gaps among children who had already spent several years at school , with the model spreading to several African countries as early as 2005 . To close these gaps, her team’s “Teaching at the Right Level” (TaRL) program works with schools and local communities to provide basic reading and arithmetic skills, ensuring no children are left behind. This systematic, replicable model reaches millions of children annually in India and is spreading around the globe. The approach is now being implemented in a number of African countries including Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia, among others , through partnerships and the TaRL Africa initiative . As a board member of the TaRL Africa initiative, Dr Banerji is supporting the growth and development of impactful programs on the continent.
“Dr Rukmini Banerji and the Pratham team have a clear mission: ‘Every child in school and learning well’, a reminder that we need to focus on education quality and not just school enrolments. The solutions that they have deployed towards this goal have proven to be cost-effective and scalable with a demonstrated potential to impact globally—disruptive education innovation with transformative results”, said head of Yidan Prize for Education Development judging panel, and board member of the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education, Dorothy K. Gordon.
With the support of the Yidan Prize, Dr Banerji plans to strengthen and expand Pratham’s work with young children so that strong foundations can be built early in a child’s life. Dr Banerji believes this will contribute significantly towards the goal of seeing “every child in school and learning well”.
“The quality and diversity of this year’s nominations reflect the drive and passion around the world to unlock new approaches to education. Our nominees are working on projects that span over 130 countries and territories. They are rethinking education systems from top to bottom, tackling inequities and empowering learners,” Chairman of the Yidan Prize Judging Committee and the former Director-General of UNESCO, Dr Koichiro Matsuura commented.
“We are also delighted to welcome five new judges to our panel — adding new perspectives and strengthening the voices of both women and representatives from more diverse regions to discuss big ideas from some of the world’s brightest minds.”
From developing play-based learning centres, to applying neuroscience to help dyslexic children, the Yidan Prize recognizes the people who are already making an impact. Each laureate will be awarded HK$30 million (approximately US$3.9 million), half of which is a project fund – enabling a series of innovative and progressive education projects to scale up and support millions of learners globally.
The 2020 Yidan Prize for Education Research Laureate, Professor Carl Wieman has pioneered the use of new teaching methods in STEM education. Today, his PhET Interactive Simulation model has delivered over 1 billion STEM simulations in 93 languages to date; Last year’s Yidan Prize for Education Development Laureates, Ms Lucy Lake and Ms Angeline Murimirwa of CAMFED, have created a unique model of girls’ education to drive systemic change, with 178,000 young women once excluded from education now leading programs to support another 5 million girls to learn, thrive and lead change.
All Yidan Prize laureates will join the Yidan Council of Luminaries to work collaboratively with distinguished education leaders. The Council works together and speaks with a collective voice to shed light on the importance of restoring and rethinking education with innovative ideas. Sharing a diversity of expertise and insights, they: have contributed to the UNESCO Futures of Education initiative on how schools can prepare for the future; are working with the Global Mindset Initiative to build a foundation for a growth mindset research to achieve quality education for students globally; have spoken at high-level conferences such as the Asian Development Bank’s International Skills Forum, to discuss the latest education innovations needed for a new normal.
Now in its fifth year, the Yidan Prize has attracted many high-quality nominations, with projects reaching and positively impacting learners globally, representing diverse perspectives, cultures and geographies. Nominations for the 2022 Yidan Prize will be open from 19 October 2021 until March 2022.
Meanwhile, the 2021 laureates will be formally recognized at the Yidan Prize Awards Presentation Ceremony and the Yidan Prize Annual Summit held on December 5, 2021.