PRATHAM Education Foundation chief executive Dr Rukmini Banerji and eminent economist Professor Eric A Hanushek have been awarded the 2021 Yidan Prize, the world’s highest education accolade, in recognition of their ground-breaking work in addressing a key aspect of education: improving quality of education and outcomes for learners at scale.
The acclaimed duo were picked for the top honour following a rigorous process conducted by an independent judging committee comprising education experts of reputation. While Dr Banerji was selected for the Yidan Prize for Education Development, Professor Hanushek got the Yidan Prize for Education Research.
Dr Banerji and Professor Hanushek joined in the process nine laureates who have been awarded the Yidan Prize since its inception in 2016. The award was established by the Yidan Prize Foundation – a global philanthropic education foundation that inspires progress and change in education.
The laureates receive a project fund of HK$15 million (£1.4 million) over three years, helping them in their work as well as a gold medal and a cash prize of HK$15 million (shared equally for teams).
Dr Banerji, who leads the Mumbai-based organisation, received the award for her contribution in improving learning outcomes. She and her team pioneered the Annual Status of Education Report assessment approach in India and it revealed literacy and numeracy gaps among children despite spending several years in school. To reduce the gap, Dr Banerji’s team’s ‘Teaching at the Right Level’ program works with schools and local communities to provide basic reading and arithmetic skills to ensure that no kid is left behind. This model is helping millions of children annually across the country and is spreading around the planet.
“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,” Dorothy K. Gordon, head of Yidan Prize for Education Development judging panel and board member of the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Institute for Information Technologies in Education.
With the support of the Yidan Prize, Dr Banerji now plans to strengthen and expand Pratham’s work with young children so that strong foundations can be laid early in a child’s life. She believes this will significantly help in seeing “every child in school and learning well”.
Prof Hanushek focuses on teaching quality
Professor Hanushek, a Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution of Stanford University, the US, has been awarded the 2021 Yidan Prize for Education Research. His work focuses on education outcomes and importance of teaching quality and has changed both research and policy internationally.
Hanushek’s work helped in shaping the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 (ensure inclusive and equitable quality education) by reframing targets for learning outcomes and has shown that economies are boosted by how much students learn instead of how many years they spend in school.
“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,” Andreas Schleicher, head of the Yidan Prize for Education Research judging panel, and director for the OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Directorate of Education and Skills, said.
With his Yidan Prize funding, Professor Hanushek wants to set up a research fellow program in Africa to support analytical capacity to shape education policies from a local perspective.
The Yidan Prize Foundation in Hong Kong is a global philanthropic foundation, with an aim of creating a better world through education. Through its prize and network of innovators, the Yidan Prize Foundation supports ideas and practices in education—specifically, ones with the power to positively change lives and society.
The judges’ committee was elated over the quality of the nominees of the 2021 contest.
“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,” Dr Koichiro Matsuura, chairman of the Yidan Prize Judging Committee and a former UNESCO director-general, said.
Nominations for the 2022 Yidan Prize will be open from October 19 and will go on till March 2022.