Chinese Internet Service Co-Founder Promotes Ed Prize at Harvard

UPDATED: Sept. 21, 2016, at 12:18 p.m.

Charles Chen Yidan, co-founder of one of China’s most popular Internet service portals, Tencent, visited Harvard last Thursday to raise awareness about a new educational prize he founded.

The Yidan Prize is the "largest of its kind in monetary terms," according to a press release from the Yidan Prize Foundation, which governs the award. It has an endowment of $320 million, and sponsors two separate prizes which both come with a roughly $3.8 million award. The two prizes are awarded on the basis of research or original ideas that engage with important issues in education development.

Yidan Visits
Charles Chen Yidan visited Harvard last week to promote a new education prize named in his honor, the Yidan Prize.

Candidates for the prize are nominated by thought leaders and groups such as governmental organizations and professional associations, according to the release. Independent judging panels will then select the winners contingent on the approval and endorsement of the foundation's board of directors.

On Thursday, Chen met with members of the Graduate School of Education faculty to discuss pressing issues in education reform and to seek recommendations for nominees, according to Soo Sheung Wong, associate director of major gifts at the Graduate School of Education.


Thomas Kane, a professor at the Graduate School of Education who attended the meeting, said he believes the Yidan Prize could potentially have a unique impact on education given its independent status and focus on big ideas.

“Prizes, such as the Nobel Prize and the MacArthur Fellowship, achieve their impact not by ‘incentivizing’ effort per se, but by ennobling and inspiring great achievement,” Kane wrote in an email. “I believe the Yidan Prize will do the same in the field of education.”

Chen also met with University President Drew G. Faust Thursday to discuss how the prize works, as well as to exchange views on education reform.

Chen’s visit to Harvard was part of a worldwide tour that aims to raise awareness about the prize. Chen said he also hopes that this tour can help motivate not just educators, but every person, to talk about education.

The nomination process for the Yidan Prize is open until the end of March 2017, and winners will be announced in September 2017.

—Staff writer Jesper W. Ke can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jesper_ke.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: September 21, 2016

A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated that the nomination process is open until March 2016. In fact, it is open until March 2017.