The inaugural Yidan Prize Summit in 2017 brought together more than 350 global education leaders, both to celebrate the largest educational prize in the world and to discuss future challenges.
DR Charles Chen Yidan, co-founder of Chinese internet giant Tencent, established the Yidan Prize Foundation in 2016 with the mission of creating a better world through education.
“One night in 2013 I wrote in my diary that I would set up a prize for education that transcends race, religion and nationality,” Dr Chen said.
Since then, Dr Chen has worked to create a global platform to learn the best practices and concepts in education that could be scaled and replicated around the world.
The Yidan Prize recognises and supports change makers for their forward looking innovation to create sustainable impacts on education systems.
The two categories are the Yidan Prize for Education Research and the Yidan Prize for Education Development, each carrying an award of $US3.97 million – four times that of the Nobel Prize.
The inaugural laureates, Vicky Colbert, founder and director of Fundación Escuela Nueva in Colombia (left) and Professor Carol S. Dweck of Stanford University each received $US1.9 million in cash and $US1.9 million in the form of funding for their work.
Dr Chen said that the goal of the Prize and Summit was for the global community to engage in conversation around education and to play a role in education philanthropy.
“Education is so important because it’s a huge driver for socio-development,” Dr Chen said.
“This kind of international prize actually promotes the best theories and best practices for education.”
“Education has so many stakeholders from policy makers, people working on the front line of education, and investors. We need to get everyone on a single platform where they can share ideas and talk about their opinions about the future of education,” he said.
It’s no surprise that Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) was high on the agenda, with educators debating how coding and technology could be implemented in the classroom and the importance of adequate teacher training.
Dr Chen emphasised that technology could impact education positively but that there was room for improvement in curriculums and school management systems to prepare for future education technologies.
Over the next three years the Yidan Prize Foundation will follow up on the laureates’ projects, to discover best practices and methods that could be replicated in other educational systems worldwide.
Nominations for the 2018 Yidan Prize close on the 31st of March.
Inaugural laureate Vicky Colbert
Vicky Colbert was the former Vice Minister of Education in Colombia and founded the Fundación Escuela Nueva, training teachers in more than 20,000 rural schools at a time when violence of the drug war was at its highest.
“Latin America is a country with a lot of inequality, so I wanted to push for social change through education,” Ms Colbert said.
Escuela Nueva promotes a classroom environment where students actively learn, participate, and collaborate, as well as strengthening the relationship between the school and the community.
The model has been shown to improve retention and academic achievement and lower the rate of grade repetition and dropout.
Internet connectivity and lack of resources were an issue but Escuela Nueva adapted by created learning materials that combined the textbook, the workbook, and guide for the teacher.
The ambition was to reach as many children as possible, but some rural schools were avoided due to the presence of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).
“I feel that the outlaws saw the importance of education,” Ms Colbert said.
“They knew that poor rural children could receive benefits and so we never received aggressions but we knew we had to be careful when we sent teachers to train the other teachers.”
With multi-grade classes and a single teacher, the rural schools struggling with traditional teacher centric classrooms benefitted from a more flexible curriculum.
“I think this is one of the strengths of Escuala Nueva because you can respect different learning rhythms in the classroom,” Ms Colbert said.
“Some kids are learning faster, some are a little bit slower and need more support from their peers – so it’s a lot of peer tutoring and collaboration.”
Ms Colbert sees applications for her program around the world, in urban areas, for displaced peoples, for teacher training and in any school that could benefit from students developing values and democratic, peaceful behaviour.
To date Escuela Nueva has been adopted in Brazil, Colombia, Chile, El Salvador, the Philippines, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Uganda, India, Vietnam and Timor.
Inaugural laureate Dr Carol Dweck
Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University Dr Carol Dweck is a leading researcher in the field of motivation, focusing on the importance of growth mindsets for students’ motivation, resilience and achievement.
“Mindsets are influenced by a belief about yourself, about your abilities, the nature of your abilities, the workings of your abilities,” Dr Dweck said.
“People are always comparing themselves to others, measuring themselves, feeling they’re deficient, feeling they’ll never be admired or accepted but we are all works in progress.”
When students have a growth mindset they believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger, and they put in extra time and effort which leads to higher achievement.
For schools to implement growth mindset development for their students, Dr Dweck said it was important to realise we are not purely a fixed mindset person or a growth mindset person, but that everyone is a mixture.
“They’re both natural to us, that the fixed mindset actually grew up to watch over us and protect us because we want to be validated, we want to be respected, we don’t want to do things that will make people think we’re deficient.
“We need to work with it rather than deny it.”
Dr Dweck’s research has shown that teacher practice has an impact on student mindset. Praising students or telling children they are smart encourages a fixed mindset whereas praising hard work and effort cultivates a growth mindset.
Putting the concept into the context of neuroscience is another way to encourage students to develop a growth mindsets.
“Neuroscience shows the ability of the brain to change, grow and even reorganise with learning and experience. So what does that tell us about our students and their capabilities?” Dr Dweck said.