Cover Dr Rukmini Banerji, Chief Executive Officer of the Pratham Education Foundation, India, is awarded the 2021 Yidan Prize Laureate for Education Development for her work in providing a cost-effective and scalable education program to ensure ‘every child (is) in school and learning well’.

The two laureates have been recognised for their groundbreaking efforts in improving the quality of education. They will each receive a project fund of HK$15 million over three years to help them with their work

This year’s Yidan Prize has been awarded to professor Eric A. Hanushek and Dr Rukmini Banerji, in recognition of their groundbreaking work in improving the quality of education and outcomes for learners at scale. The Yidan Prize—established by philanthropist and Tencent co-founder, Charles Chen Yidan—is the world’s highest education accolade.

It consists of two prizes: the Yidan Prize for Education Research and Yidan Prize for Education Development. Awardees receive a project fund of HK$15 million over three years to help them with their work, a gold medal and an additional cash prize of HK$15 million.

Established in 2016, the prize gives educational innovators the recognition and support that they deserve in order to advance global social development and a better world through education. “I wanted to set up a platform that would allow the global community to share new ideas and discuss issues related to the current and future development of education and its effect on future generations. To me, education is the fundamental driving force for social progress,” Chen said to Tatler back in December 2019.

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This year's laureates have been chosen following a rigorous judging process, conducted by an independent judging committee of recognised experts. Professor Eric A Hanushek, who is a Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at Hoover Institution of Stanford University, was selected for the Education Research prize.

His work focuses on education outcomes and the importance of teaching quality and has transformed both research and policy internationally. He has helped shape the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education by reframing targets for learning outcomes. He was also able to show that how much students learn—not only many years they spent in school—boosts economies instead.

With his prize, Professor Hanushek is planning to initiate a research fellow program in Africa to support and shape education policies from a local perspective. “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,” said Mr Andreas Schleicher, head of the Yidan Prize for Education Research judging panel.

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Meanwhile, Dr Rukmini Banerji received the Education Development prize for improving learning outcomes. Currently, she's the chief executive officer of the Pratham Education Foundation and, together with her team, pioneered the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) assessment approach.

With this, she helped reveal literacy and numeracy gaps among children who had already spent several years in school. In order to close these gaps, her team initiated the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) program with schools and local communities to provide basic reading and arithmetic skills to ensure that no children get left behind.

Dr Banerji plans to strengthen and expand Pratham's work with young children through the prize. “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,” said Dorothy K. Gordon, head of Yidan Prize for Education Development judging panel, and board member of the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education.

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