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Yidan Prize for Education Research and Education Development announced at MIT

MIT was the first stop on a world tour for the Yidan Prize Foundation's launch of a new $3.9 million education award.
MIT Vice President for Open Learning Sanjay Sarma (right) hosts Charles Chen Yidan of the Yidan Prize Foundation to announce MIT as a nominator for the Yidan Prize.
MIT Vice President for Open Learning Sanjay Sarma (right) hosts Charles Chen Yidan of the Yidan Prize Foundation to announce MIT as a nominator for the Yidan Prize.
Photo: Tom Smith

The Office of Digital Learning recently hosted Charles Chen Yidan of Hong Kong, founder of the Yidan Prize Foundation. The visit marked the Yidan Prize Foundation’s first stop on a world tour to announce the new Yidan Prize in Education Research and Education Development

The visitors met with Vice President for Open Learning Sanjay Sarma and MIT faculty members John Gabrieli, Parag Pathak, Angela Belcher, and Eric Klopfer, as well as several representatives from the Office of Digital Learning. Chen and colleagues shared news of the prize and listened to faculty presentations on the forward-thinking work MIT is doing in the field of education, in such initiatives as the MIT Integrated Learning Initiative (MITili) and the pK-12 Action Group.

Launched this year, the Yidan Prize Foundation is a $3.9 million education prize awarded to individuals whose work makes profound contributions to education research and development, with the ultimate aim of creating a better world through education. The largest award prize in the field of education, the Yidan Prize is managed by an international judging committee and global advisory board formed by leading experts in education. The prize, which annually gives out $7.7 million in awards, is divided into two categories: Yidan Prize for Education Research, which recognizes outstanding research that amounts to significant contributions in education, and the Yidan Prize for Education Development, which recognizes innovative ideas that tackle pressing challenges in the field of education.

Each Yidan Prize Laureate will receive a gold medal and $3.9 million in awards, including a cash prize of $1.9 million and a project fund of $1.9 million. The Yidan Prize invited MIT to become one of the nominators for the prize. Nominated research or projects must be future-oriented, innovative, and transformative, while achieving sustainable results. The Yidan Prize Laureates will be announced in September 2017, and an award ceremony will be held the following December in Hong Kong.

“The Yidan Prize is more than just a competition or award,” Chen said. “Through a series of initiatives — research, events, and multimedia content, alongside our annual financial award — my foundation wants to establish a platform that brings together a cross-section of stakeholders to engage in conversation around education and re-kindle a new and constructive and inclusive dialogue on solutions.”

Chen, one of the founders of Tencent Holdings Ltd., China’s largest and most used Internet service portal, created the Yidan Prize Foundation this year with the mission to create a better world through education. After stepping down as Tencent’s chief administrative officer in 2013, Chen has devoted his time to philanthropy, establishing the Tencent Charity Foundation and investing in Wuhan College, a non-profit university in China. The Yidan Foundation is the result of his vision to “establish a prize that goes beyond religion, race, and nationality” to expand access to and quality of education worldwide.

“It was an honor to have Mr. Chen and his foundation visit MIT,” Sarma said. “His vision for the future of education harmoniously aligns with the work my colleagues are doing in the discovery and development of the science of learning, and its application to school change, curriculum, and learning technologies. We thank Mr. Chen for establishing this important prize to highlight innovative work in education.”

The Foundation later toured the MIT campus and met with MIT Chancellor for Academic Advancement Eric Grimson. “We are pleased that Mr. Chen has invited MIT to nominate projects for consideration by the Yidan Prize,” said Grimson. “It is encouraging to meet with visionary philanthropists who care deeply about innovation in education, especially when their goals align with MIT’s desire to deepen our understanding of learning, and to create new pedagogies and new platforms to transform education at all levels.”  

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