Education has the power to change lives. Nobody knows that better than Dr. Charles Chen Yidan, a core founder of Chinese Internet mega-company Tencent.
As a child, Dr. Chen’s future was set on a very different course than the one he would have had. His grandmother grew up in rural China and the family relied on agriculture to survive. But his grandmother was an ardent believer in the power of education. She managed to save enough to send Dr. Chen’s father to the city to go to university. That commitment to education and Dr. Chen’s close relationship with his grandmother had a significant influence on Dr. Chen’s own perception of the importance of education.
The rest, as they say, is history. Dr. Chen went on to become extremely successful and used over $320 million of his own money to create the Yidan Prize Foundation. The Yidan Prize Foundation has a mission of creating a better world through education. It consists of two awards, the Yidan Prize for Education Research and the Yidan Prize for Education Development.
Yidan Prize Laureates each receive a gold medal and a total sum of HK$30 million ($3.8 million), including a cash prize of HK$15 million ($1.9 million) and a project fund of HK$15 million ($1.9 million), roughly 3.5 times the size of the money awarded by the prestigious Nobel Prize committee.
Meet the laureates
Larry V. Hedges, Chairman of the Department of Statistics at Northwestern University in Chicago, is the recipient of the Yidan Prize in Education Research. Dr. Hedges was selected for his work in meta-analysis in education where he found innovative methods of synthesizing research findings across studies (a statistical analysis of the results of multiple studies that combines their findings).
As Dr. Hedges explained, research studies can reach the wrong conclusion due to inference traps. By combining multiple studies on the same topic, and using meta-analysis to look at the data, Dr. Hedges figured out a way to create a much larger sample size that removes bias and improves statistical reliability. Policy makers in education have been able to use Dr. Hedges approach to make important evidence-based decisions.
Dr. Hedges is excited to participate in the Yidan Prize Forum in Hong Kong on December 10. According to Dr. Hedges, “The Yidan Prize is a worldwide movement and it didn’t start in the west. I was very glad to see that. This is a major philanthropical event. So often, and for much of history, anything like this would have been an event that started in the West. The fact that it’s so closely associated with China is also important.”
Dr. Hedges plans to use the proceeds from his award to support research evidence and make sure people pay attention to it, with a focus on making wise and evidence-based decisions for families on education choice.
Anant Agarwal CEO of edX, is the recipient of the Yidan Prize in Education Development. Professor Agarwal taught the first edX course on circuits and electronics from MIT, which drew 155,000 students from 162 countries. Thanks to Professor Agarwal and edX, students around the world have free or low-cost access to high quality education at scale, regardless of geographic location, financial resources, prior academic qualifications, gender, race or other demographics. edX currently offers over 2,000 online courses from more than 130 leading institutions to more than 17 million people around the world and aims to continue increasing its reach.
According to Professor Agarwal, “Education is a human right. And everybody should have access to it like the air we breathe. Far more people have access to the Internet as have access to education.” edX is allowing people around the world to use their access to the Internet to get access to high-quality education which would have been nearly impossible before. Whether users want to take one course, earn a certificate, or get a Micro Master’s degree, they have the flexibility to design their own education experience.
edX partners with premier universities including Harvard, MIT, U.C. Berkeley and more than 50 other global universities who issue the credentials allowing students to prove to potential employers they have the requisite knowledge to get a job. In addition, corporations around the world use edX technology to help better train their existing employees.
Professor Agarwal plans to use the proceeds from his award to invest back into edX to launch a new Micro Bachelor’s program and increase affordable and quality access for users around the world.
Honoring the laureates and collaborating for the future
The Yidan Prize for Education Research and the Yidan Prize for Education Development will be awarded in Hong Kong on December 9, 2018. The Honorable Mrs. Carrie LAM CHENG Yuet-ngor, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, will present Larry Hedges and Anant Agarwal with gold medals.
The ceremony will be followed by the Yidan Prize Summit on 10 December 2018. The laureates will be joined by approximately 350 practitioners, researchers, policymakers, business leaders and philanthropists, including HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands; Ms Grace Pandor, Minister of Higher Education of South Africa; Russian-Armenian philanthropist Mr Ruben Vardanyan; and other global leaders in education.
For more information or to participate in the Yidan Prize Summit, please visit https://summit.yidanprize.org/