Vicky Colbert (left), recipient of the Yidan Prize for Education Development, and Carol S. Dweck (right), recipient of the Yidan Prize for Education Research. Photos: Yidan Prize Facebook page

Two education professionals have won the first Yidan Prize, which was founded in 2016 by Charles Chen Yidan, a co-founder of Tencent Holdings and a philanthropist, for their achievements in education development and research.

Vicky Colbert – founder of the Fundación Escuela Nueva, a Columbia-based non-government group that aims to improve the quality of education in schools with limited resources – received the Yidan Prize for Education Development.

“We work to establish affordable schools of excellent quality which children, teachers and parents are empowered to learn and contribute to a culture of peace and citizenship in their environment,” she said during an award ceremony at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center on Sunday.

“I would like to thank my husband, Jairo Arboleda, for his extraordinary support through the years,” she said.

The Escuela Nueva model was originally developed in the mid-1970s to improve the quality of rural public schools in Colombia. Centered around the use of an active learning methodology, Escuela Nueva was adopted as a national policy in Colombia and has been replicated in 16 countries around the world.

Colbert is a sociologist from Javeriana University in Colombia who did graduate studies in sociology of education at Stanford University in the United States. She is a co-author of the worldwide renowned Escuela Nueva model and was its first national coordinator.

Colbert has pioneered, expanded and sustained this educational innovation from many organizational spheres: as Colombia’s Vice Minister of Education, UNICEF’s Education Adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean and now from Fundación Escuela Nueva (FEN), an NGO she founded to ensure its quality, sustainability and innovation.

Meanwhile, Carol S Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, won the Yidan Prize for Education Research.

“With this prize, I dedicated myself anew, to creating joyful, meaningful and effective learning for all children of the world,” she said at the same ceremony.

“My research is still in its infancy, and we have so much to learn and to explore,” she said.

Dweck’s research has identified different mindsets that students can hold about their talents and abilities: a fixed mindset in which talents and abilities are viewed as unalterable and a growth mindset in which they are seen as qualities that can be developed.

The research then demonstrates the importance of these mindsets for students’ motivation, resilience, and achievement – particularly for students from vulnerable populations – and shows that these mindsets can be changed.

Each recipient received a gold medal, a personal award of HK$15 million (US$1.92 million) and another HK$15 million of funding for future projects. The awards were presented by Carrie Lam, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, during the awards ceremony on Sunday.

Chen Yidan, founder of the Yidan Prize Foundation, thanked and congratulated the two winners in his speech for their contributions in the education sector. “Let us work towards this one common goal to create a better world through education,” he said.