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Two professors from American universities, Larry Hedges from Northwestern University (NWU) and Anant Agarwal from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) won the 2018 First Yidan Prize.

The Yidan Prize Conference Series: Asia-Pacific was held at HKU on 11 Dec to honour the two Yidan Prize laureates. This is the first time the Department of Education at HKU partners with the Yidan foundation to host the Yidan Prize Conference. HKU TELI livestreamed the event for hundreds of viewers to watch this real-time.

HKU hosts Yidan Prize Conference Series: Asia-Pacific – (From left to right) Professor Xiang Zhang (President and Vice Chancellor of HKU), Professor Anant Agarwal (Yidan Prize for Education Development Laureate 2018), Dr. Charles Chen (Founder of the Yidan Prize Foundation), Professor Larry Hedges (Yidan Prize for Education Research Laureate 2018), Professor Lin Goodwin (Dean of Education at HKU)

The Yidan Prize is one of the world’s leading educational award, and some compare it to a Nobel Prize in Education. The Yidan prize was founded in 2016 by Dr. Charles Chen, the co-founder of Tencent. Every year, the prize is awarded to two individuals or organizations in recognition of their distinguished contributions to education research and education development and in particular, their forward-looking innovations that create profound impact on education for a better future.

Professor Xiang Zhang, President and Vice Chancellor of HKU addressed the mission of the Yidan Prize is to create a better world through education, “there are many pressing issues that we will be facing in the 21st century, what the world needs is a big idea, what the world needs more is a bright mind that creates many big ideas.” Professor Zhang said, we at HKU share with the Yidan Prize foundation in creation of a better world with education.

Professor Xiang Zhang (President and Vice Chancellor of HKU) addressed the mission of the Yidan Prize.

Make Education More Scientific

Professor Larry Hedges (Yidan Prize for Education Research Laureate 2018) said at the beginning of his keynote speech that, “I was particularly happy to receive the Yidan Prize as I am a living example of the consequences of education, that the power of education has that changed lives,” he said, “the award shines a bright light on the life’s work that I have chosen, in trying to develop a more scientific basis for education policy making and educational practice and trying to develop a field of evidence-based education research.”

Professor Hedges said, “We know practically any students can learn practically anything that the best students do, we just don’t know how to make this a reality for all students.”

Professor Larry Hedges (Yidan Prize for Education Research Laureate 2018) talked about the importance of scientific evidence in education practice and policy making.

Professor Hedges explained that, “what was done in education in the past was fundamentally based on educators’ experience of what worked and one applied those experience on places where we have no experience with. This is compared to a ‘craftman’s endeavor’ based on experience and apprenticeship, and decision-making in education based on tradition, or politics, or individual experience.”

He said, “in a society of rapid changes today, the craftmen’s experience adapts too slowly to be of use to what our society needs and that the future of education is to rely on evidence that proves what works.”

“To understand education, we have to pay attention to the system and all its interlocking features and we have to apply the best available scientific methods.” He suggested education and the future system will be enhanced by a culture of scientific research evidence in education embraced by policy makers, teachers, investigators and administrators.

Technology Transforms Education

The Yidan Prize for Education Development Laureate 2018, Anant Agarwal, Professor at MIT and the Founder and CEO of edX, said in his keynote speech that, “few would argue about the statement: Education is a human right and all should have access to it.” And true to his statement, he founded edX, an online platform that provided free learning and is serving 19+ million learners around the world today.

edX partners with the world’s 140 leading institution partners, among many others, the University of Hong Kong, in offering 2400+ higher education courses to global learners. Apart from the edX platform, edX also offers an open-source platform Open edX and HK MOOCs to thousands of education institutions in the world. Professor Agarwal has an ambitious goal of reaching 1 billion learners in the future.

Professor Anant Agarwal (Yidan Prize for Education Development Laureate 2018) mentioned edX partners with the world’s 140 leading institution partners, including HKU to provide global online courses.

Witnessing how education of this sort has transformed the lives of students living in developed and developing countries, remote villages and in refugee programs, Professor Agarwal who continuously strived to make education more democratized and more accessible said, “he would like to dream a little bit to what education could look like in the future through technology.”

He said, “only we start talking about innovation as part of the whole process, that learners need to be lifelong learners as technology transform our work, and people need to learn throughout life, we are creating new credentials along with university partners so learners can benefit from them without necessarily having to come to university.”

Professor Agarwal also highlighted some distinguished programs that made use of innovation and technology to provide continuous learning and professional development, among others, HKU’s FinTech Professional Certificate Program. He gave a shoutout that, “In fact, HKU has an amazing professional certificate program on edX in FinTech, it’s a Blockbuster!”

Watch the short clip of the speech:
Week 1 Teaser

What does Professor Agarwal think the future of education will look like? He showed the audience five ‘Reimagine Education Goals for 2022’ and challenged all partnering institutions to achieve those goals with edX.

The five ‘Reimagine Education Goals for 2022’ that Professor Agarwal presented at his keynote speech.

Watch the 2018 Yidan Prize Conference livestream (full version):
Week 1 Teaser


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