Tech Billionaire Funds Yidan Prize to Recognize Education Contributions

(Photo: South China Morning Post)

(Photo: South China Morning Post)

A Chinese internet billionaire has launched the largest education prize in the world, coming in at a total of HK$60 million, or $7.8 million USD.

Called the Yidan Prize, the award will be offered to "outstanding" individuals like teachers or groups of people who work in the education field. Funded through an individual trust totaling HK$2.5 billion, or US$320 million, the money will give these individuals the opportunity to have funding for their projects.

The initiative was created by tech billionaire Charles Chen Yidan, co-founder of one of the largest websites in the world, Tencent, which controls social media and other internet services in China. He said he spent three years setting up the prize.

"I was deeply influenced by my grandmother," he told EJ Insight in an interview. "Although she was illiterate, she was kind to people and always gave friendly support to others. Her kindness and friendliness was from her heart. She did not speak great words but had a strong belief that studying is very important."

The prize money will be split into two categories, the Yidan Prize for Education Research and the Yidan Prize for Education Development. Each prize will total $3.9 million, half of which will be offered as a lump sum. The other half will be given over a period of three years in order to offer financing for projects.

The award is hoping to become the Nobel Prize for education, coming up against the Global Teacher Prize, which gives $1 million to an "exceptional" teacher each year, to become the largest education award in the world.

Chen said the prize would be offered to those who are considered to be "agents of change" in education. He hopes the prize money will be used to help solve some of the largest challenges currently facing the world of education. "It is intended to ignite constructive and inclusive dialogue around education," Mr. Chen said in a press conference in Hong Kong.

"The world is facing the fourth industrial era, which is defined by humans' interface with computers – are we ready to face that future? The world needs a big idea and that is why we have set up this prize to create many big ideas to create a better world."

In order to create the award, the Yiden Prize Foundation commissioned a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit that would offer educational estimates for 25 economies through the year 2030, writes Richard Vaughan for TES.

Research for the study considered and ranked performance for each country in five categories, through 2030, including expenditure on education, affordability of tertiary education, youth unemployment, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) graduates in the labor market and internet access in schools.

According to the results, the United States came in 15th out of 25 countries when it came to predictions on its educational spending by 2030, falling in behind Canada and India. In addition, the US was ranked 21st for affordability of post-secondary education, giving it the title of the most expensive of the developed nations in which to earn a higher education.

Nominations for the award will begin in June of this year, with the inaugural winner being announced in September 2017. The first prize ceremony is expected to take place in December of that year.

05 24, 2016
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