Charles Chen Yidan, co-founder of Tencent—a Chinese investment holding company—visited the Harvard Graduate School of Education this week for a conference showcasing the work of the 2017 recipients of his award for education innovators.
The award’s inaugural recipients, Stanford University professor Carol S. Dweck and Clara Victoria “Vicky” Colbert, director of the Colombia-based educational NGO Fundación Escuela Nueva, participated in a series of events with Education School students and faculty during the conference.
The Yidan Prize, founded in 2016, is a $3.9 million award given for contributions to education, with the intention of continuing the recipients’ work in their fields.
Chen, who left his post as the Chief Administrative Officer of Tencent in 2013 to be a full-time educational philanthropist, said education is the most important thing one can support.
“I have often said that education is the ultimate answer to social progress,” Chen said through a translator. “I think this is my lifetime career, especially after I stepped down from Tencent Group.”
Dweck, who was a professor at Harvard in the 1980s, said it was “wonderful” to return to the School of Education and to see former colleagues.
“At lunch with the dean yesterday, I remembered that this is where I developed those ideas,” Dweck said. “I had already done 15 years of research on the topic, but it was at Harvard where the ideas crystallized.”
Colbert, who created the “New School” model of education in Colombia, said she plans to use the Yidan Prize funds to expand the network of schools using her method. Designed for teachers in single-room schools in rural areas, the method is meant to address the needs of students with varying academic levels simultaneously.
Dweck said she plans to continue studying the impacts of her educational theories on student growth in American schools and developing a curriculum for teachers.
While visiting Harvard, Chen said he had the opportunity to meet with University President Drew G. Faust to discuss the Yidan Prize and Harvard’s own initiatives for transforming education.
“We had some detailed discussions about how the Yidan Prize went, and our ideas behind that,” Chen said. “She also shared with us some of the innovative projects and ideas Harvard will launch.”
Chen said that he and Faust had a “mutual understanding” on their goals for higher education.
“We both see education to be very future-oriented,” he said.
—Staff writer Jamie D. Halper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @jamiedhalper
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