Indian, US academicians bag 2021 Yidan Prize for Education Research

Mumbai: The Mumbai-based Pratham Education Foundation’s (PEF) CEO Dr Rukmini Banerji and Stanford University’s Prof Eric A. Hanushek have been awarded the ‘2021 Yidan Prize for Education Research’, carrying an award of $3.90 million, or almost Rs 28 crore, for each laureate, making it the world’s highest education accolade.

The coveted award from the Yidan Prize Foundation, Hong Kong, has recognised their ground-breaking work addressing a crucial piece of the education puzzle pertaining to ‘improving quality of education and outcomes for learners at scale’.

“Dr 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,” said Dorothy K. Gordon, of the jury and Board Member of the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education.

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, she added.

“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,” said Andreas Schleicher, of the judging panel.

The Dr Banerji-Prof Hanushek duo was selected after a rigorous selection process from entries around the world for the prize instituted in 2016, with 9 previous laureates till date.

This is the second major world honour for a Maharashtra academic in 10 months after the Solapur’s government schoolteacher Ranjitsinh Disale bagged the Varkey Foundation-UNESCO’s ‘Global Teacher Prize-2020’, worth $1 million, in December 2020.

Dr Banerji pioneered the Annual Status of Education Report assessment approach revealing literacy and numeracy gaps among children who had already spent several years at school.

For this her team’s ‘Teaching at the Right Level’ (TaRL) program with schools and local communities to provide basic reading and math skills ensured that no kids are left behind in the academics, with the replicable model benefiting millions in the country and spreading worldwide.

With the prize money, Dr Banerji plans to strengthen and expand the PEF’s work with young children to build strong foundations early in their lives and march towards the goal of seeing ‘every child in school and learning well’.

Prof Hanushek – a Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University – focuses his work on education outcomes and importance of teaching quality that have transformed both research and policy internationally.

His contributions helped shape the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 (ensure inclusive and equitable quality education) by reframing targets for learning outcomes and has shown how much students learn – and not, how many years they spend in school – that boosts economies.

With the prize, Prof Hanushek plans a research fellow program for Africa supporting analytical capacity to shape education policies from a local perspective.

“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 work on projects that span over 130 countries and territories, rethinking education systems from top-to-bottom, tackling inequities and empowering learners,” said Dr Koichiro Matsuura, Chairman of the Yidan Prize Judging Committee and a former Director-General of UNESCO.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kond-based institution has announced October 19, 2021 till March 2022 as period of nominations for Yidan Prize-2022.


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