CEPR Faculty Director, Tom Kane, invited to join Yidan Prize Foundation’s international Council of Luminaries

December 7, 2020

The Council gathers 16 highly accomplished educational researchers and innovators to foster collaboration and drive education progress globally


7 December 2020, Hong Kong – The Yidan Prize Foundation, a global philanthropic educational foundation focused on inspiring and supporting innovative education ideas and practices, today announced the formation of a Council of Luminaries (“The Council”) at this year’s Yidan Prize Awards Presentation Ceremony and Summit, held virtually in Hong Kong SAR. The council will be a transformational force and support closer collaboration among the world’s most distinguished educational leaders, to amplify their collective voice and take practical action in educational policy and reform. Tom Kane, Walter H. Gale Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, is among the inaugural council members.

“Given the number of national governments describing education as their ‘most important domestic policy challenge,’ it is striking that there are so few international efforts to stimulate and support innovation in education,” Kane says. “The Yidan Council could draw up a blueprint for future efforts to pilot and test educational innovation internationally.”

Now, more than ever, there is need for urgent action to provide quality education. According to UNESCO’s ‘Save Our Future’ White Paper[1] published this summer, 1.6 billion students’ education have been interrupted due to COVID-19. The pandemic forced school closures that have affected 90 percent of the world’s students. In a time when online learning is the only option for many, half of the world’s children cannot access the internet. More importantly, there is a gap between educational research and practices. As society begins to take small but positive steps towards a post-COVID-19 world, collaboration in education is becoming increasingly important. There has never been a better time to rethink educational practices, foster a more equitable and inclusive system, and build bridges between research and practice.


Learn more about the Council of Luminaries


Creating an open and people-driven platform for education

“As a firm believer in the power of education, the Yidan Prize Foundation believes the world needs an open and people-driven platform which brings together the brightest minds in education to inspire progress and change in education for a better world,” said Dr Charles CHEN Yidan, Founder of the Yidan Prize Foundation, at the Summit.

“The Council of Luminaries are coming together to create a more equitable and inclusive global community, and we are very pleased to be part of it, accelerating change and action. We all believe in the power of education. We know that we need to work together. We are hopeful for the future.

Where education systems are flourishing, we can learn from their strengths and successful experience. This knowledge will benefit other systems which have their own unique contexts and constraints.

“All our luminaries are passionate educators who are highly accomplished and dedicated. The luminaries’ work has already brought about hugely positive changes to communities all around the world. They have made transformations possible in innovative, sustainable ways.”

The council will be a place where these experts are encouraged to share and address key issues within educational practices, and to bridge the gap between research and practice. The Yidan Prize Foundation is determined to bring closer collaboration among highly accomplished and widely respected educational leaders to amplify their impact on the communities of educational researchers and practitioners around the world. The luminaries hope to inspire educators, philanthropists and policymakers who share their passion to positively contribute to and transform education to benefit future generations and society.

Bringing together the brightest minds to build a better world through education

The Council of Luminaries (see end of this news release for a full list of members) gathers the world’s brightest minds - researchers, educators, neuroscientists, psychologists, economists, statisticians and innovators. The luminaries are determined to take concrete actions to close the inequality gap in education around the world. They aspire to build new bridges between the worlds of research and practice to make education more responsive to the challenges of the 21st century, and more inclusive for the millions of children who are marginalized by today’s systems.

The luminaries are a diverse group of highly accomplished leaders, who have developed both practical and theoretical expertise on education by drawing on different disciplines. In their own work, they have seen the power of education to change lives, transform communities, economies and societies, and build a better world. The council’s unique strength lies in its ability to have educational experts from multiple disciplines. This means, the council can look at problems from many different angles, from listening to learners and communities; and work together in teams that have different skills. 

“The challenge in education is so large that we need all of us, global multilateral funds and empowered local community leaders, nation state resources and agile philanthropy, researchers and activists, all playing our part in concert. We must judge ourselves against the most demanding of standards. The words ‘leave no child behind’ are not a slogan; rather, they are the benchmark to which we all must deliver,” Ms Julia Gillard, Former Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of Global Partnership for Education, said at the closing of the Yidan Prize Summit.

Solving real world problems collectively is at the heart of the council

There is strong interest across the council members in exploring potential areas for collaboration on real world problems. They envisage working together towards enhancing greater engagement with the public through new research and ideas in education. Additionally, the members have identified important opportunities for the council to speak with a collective voice on major matters of international educational concern. They will work together using evidence from the science of human development in learning programs, and engage the public in education’s newest ideas and research. To this end, the council will be collaborating all year round; taking part in regular discussions, panel debates and presentations. They will also hold an annual summit, to share ideas and debate new initiatives with the public, regulators and government officials. This will enable them to spread ideas within the network and beyond.

“There are clear opportunities to do things differently and better,” said Professor Carl Wieman, Professor of Physics and Graduate School of Education and DRC Chair at Stanford University, who won this year’s Yidan Prize for Education Research and is one of the luminaries. For Professor Wieman, science and technology is fundamental. With basic technical literacy, humans can make much better decisions when tackling pressing global issues, from global warming and energy sources to health.

Two other luminaries Ms Lucy Lake, Chief Executive Officer, CAMFED, and Ms Angeline Murimirwa, Executive Director - Africa, CAMFED, who won the Yidan Prize for Education Development, are excited about working with and learning from council members. “We see the Council of Luminaries as an incubator of fresh thinking in education. Its inauguration comes at a critical time when we need to be daring and think differently – both to navigate the challenges posed to education by the current global crisis, and to use this moment to bring through new models for the future,” said Lucy Lake.

Creating ground-breaking collaboration

This year’s Summit keynote address was given by HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, who has newly joined the Board of Directors of the Yidan Prize Foundation. “I am proud to officially launch the Council of Luminaries: a group of outstanding men and women from around the world. Scientist and practitioners, driven by a passion for learning. For curiosity. For solid facts. They are all optimists. Original thinkers. And disrupters in their own field. What an extraordinary force for change by connecting them as individual change makers.”


Read more at wsj.com

The members of the Council of Luminaries include:

  • The late Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder, BRAC – represented by Muhammad Musa, Executive Director, BRAC International and Erum Mariam, Executive Director, BRAC Institute for Educational Development
  • Anant Agarwal, CEO and Founder, edX; Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Kamal Ahmad, Founder, Asian University for Women
  • Vicky Colbert, Founder and Executive Director, Fundación Escuela Nueva
  • Carol Dweck, Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology, Stanford University
  • Usha Goswami, Director, Center for Neuroscience in Education, University of Cambridge
  • Eric Hanushek, Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow and Professor, Stanford University and Hoover Institution
  • Larry Hedges, Chairman, Department of Statistics, Northwestern University
  • Thomas Kane, Walter H. Gale Professor of Education and Economics, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard University
  • Salman Khan, Founder and CEO, Khan Academy
  • Wendy Kopp, CEO and Co-founder of Teach For All
  • Patricia Kuhl, Professor, Speech and Hearing Sciences, Co-Director, University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences
  • Lucy Lake, CEO, CAMFED
  • Angeline Murimirwa, Executive Director—Africa, CAMFED
  • Carl Wieman, DRC Professor in the School of Engineering and Professor of Physics and of Education, Stanford University
  • Zhu Yong-xin, Founder, New Education Experiment

About the Yidan Prize Foundation and Yidan Prizes: Created in 2016 by Dr Charles CHEN Yidan, a core founder of Tencent, the Yidan Prize Foundation has a mission of creating a better world through education. The Yidan Prize is an inclusive education award that recognizes individuals, or up to three-member teams, who have contributed significantly to education research and development. 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. In addition, a total of HK$30 million (around US$3.9 million) of prize funds is awarded to the individual or team (shared equally) from each category, half of which is a cash prize while the other half is project funds to help the awardees expand their initiatives. To ensure transparency and sustainability, the prize is managed by the Yidan Prize Foundation and governed by an independent trust with an endowment of HK$2.5 billion (around US$323 million). Through a series of initiatives, the prize aims to establish a platform for the global community to engage in conversation around education and to play a role in education philanthropy.

In April 2020, the Yidan Prize Foundation joined UNESCO’s Global Education Coalition for COVID-19 response to support countries in scaling up their best distance learning practices and reaching children and youth who are most at risk.

The Yidan Prize Foundation is now accepting nominations for the Fifth Yidan Prize - the deadline is 31 March 2021.

Yidan Prize Foundation Website: https://yidanprize.org

About the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University: The Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University seeks to transform education through quality research and evidence. CEPR and its partners believe all students will learn and thrive when education leaders make decisions using evidence, rather than hunches and untested assumptions. Learn more at cepr.harvard.edu.

See also: Press Releases, 2020