Inicio Mundo How This Entrepreneur Created The Largest Education Prize In History – Forbes

How This Entrepreneur Created The Largest Education Prize In History – Forbes


Dr. Charles ChenYidan Prize Foundation

Education is not the typical topic of interest for entrepreneurs. However, every day we hear a little more from entrepreneurs who are moving into the education space trying to make a difference in the world.

This year, the staff of Yidan Prize reached out and asked me to share my education story along with some of my hopes and dreams for the global education system. As I took part in sharing my thoughts, I was intrigued to learn more about Dr. Chen, the Yidan Prize, and the goals for the largest education award in the world.

In 2017, Dr. Charles Chen appeared on the front cover of the May-June issue of Forbes China. He is the Co-Founder of China’s Internet Tencent Holdings, and Forbes named him “China’s most charitable man.”[1]

Tencent is an Internet-based technology and cultural enterprise headquartered in Shenzhen, China. The organization delivers integrated Internet solutions to billions of people through their user-oriented business philosophy.

Although Tencent took part in some philanthropic needs in the past, it wasn’t until after the historical Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 when Chen knew he needed to do more.

At the time, Chen was also the first chairman of the Tencent Charity Foundation, the company’s in-house funding program. Growing beyond their 2007 web location, Tencent added a new philanthropy initiative to WeChat.

Today, Tencent Charity has become one of the world’s most engaged platforms in the country.

In 2013, Chen left his role as chief administration officer at Tencent. He set up a philanthropic organization and donated $348 million of his Tencent resources and put them toward education causes.

Dr. Chen ranks No. 1 on the new Forbes China Philanthropy List. Of all the philanthropic causes, education is a field of interest closest to his heart.

In May of 2016, Dr. Chen announced the launch of the Yidan Prize. The mission of the award is to create a better world through education. The world’s largest education prize of its kind in monetary terms–the award aims to empower change-makers in education, build a global community of education leaders and, ultimately, create long-lasting, enlightening impacts on humanity as a whole.

According to Yidan’s site,

Given on an annual basis, Yidan Prize reaches out to the world to recognize individuals with outstanding achievements in education research and development. An international judging panel formed by a respected team of independent and authoritative experts will review each entry according to rigorous criteria to identify the very best individuals.

In this interview which has been edited and condensed, Dr. Chen and I spoke about the Yidan Prize, his goals in education, and the mission to keep education and innovation at the forefront of the global conversation.

Robyn Shulman: Dr. Chen, what made you, one of China’s most successful businessmen and a core founder of a leading Chinese Internet company, decide to shift your focus to education philanthropy?

Dr. Charles Chen: Philanthropy and education are very important, and I always believe that education is the fundamental driving force for social progress. Therefore, both matters deserve my lifetime devotion.

Shulman: There are many areas of philanthropy, why did you choose education?

Chen: There are many ways to engage in philanthropic work. When I was in Tencent, the philanthropy concerned systems or platforms. In my foundation, I picked education, as I have always believed that it is the fundamental driving force for social progress.

Education truly has the power to transform lives. It’s much more than just the transfer of knowledge. In Chinese, the word for education consists of two symbols, meaning teaching and cultivating. I believe that cultivating good character is just as important as acquiring new skills.

Shulman: Can you tell me more about how the idea for the Yidan Prize came to you?

Chen: I remember it very clearly. On May 24, 2013, shortly after I had stepped down from my role at Tencent, I wrote in my diary a wish to establish a prize. I wanted to create a prize that went beyond religion, race, and nationality, and to encourage reflections on the universe and contributions to humanity.

Shulman: Was your wish the driving factor?

Chen: Yes, this wish was the key idea that drove me to establish the Yidan Prize. I wanted to set up a platform that would allow the global community to share new ideas and discuss issues related to the development and future of education.

Shulman: Do you see the prize as a way to tackle some of the problems in education?

Chen: Yes, there are many challenges in the field of education. I hope that the Yidan Prize can contribute positively to the changing situation. That is also how we came up with the mission statement of the Yidan Prize: create a better world through education.

Shulman: How is the Yidan Prize different from other educational awards?

Chen: It is designed to reward innovative thinking that is scalable.

Shulman: How do you accomplish such a tremendous goal?

Chen: The point is not about money, but instead putting the spotlight on the best and brightest the world has to offer in the hopes that groundbreaking work being done by the few will become the resource of the many.

We know we need big ideas to create a better world, and I hope that with the Prize, we can not only locate and highlight those with the most potential but to also work to see them utilized throughout the world.

Shulman: Do you view the Yidan prize as a competition?

Chen: I would also underscore the Yidan Prize as more than just a competition or award. Through a series of initiatives – research, events, and multimedia content – alongside our annual financial award, my foundation wants to establish a platform that brings together a cross-section of stakeholders to engage in conversation around education and re-kindle constructive and inclusive dialogue on solutions.

Shulman: What are some of the main issues and challenges in the world of education today, in your mind?

Chen: One major challenge is imbalanced development in education. We can approach this issue from two angles:

  • In different regions, there are imbalanced developments among the rich nations.
  • There are imbalanced developments between different countries and regions.

Shulman: How do you address these imbalances?

Chen: To address this imbalance, we need collaborations. Also, another main challenge is how to make education adapt to the needs of the future, and how to cultivate and nurture talents for the future. In short, how to transform our education systems to meet the needs of the future.

Shulman: How is the prize structured and how much do the potential winners receive each year?

Chen: Over the next 50 years, the Yidan Prize Foundation will recognize 100 of the brightest minds in education research and education development. Every year, we will present two awards to people who’ve made substantial contributions to research in education or the practice of education in the real world.

Shulman: How about financially?

Chen: Each of the Yidan Prize laureates receives HK $30 million, or approximately US $3.87 million dollars[2] which represents a combined award of HK $60 million or about US $7.74 million.

To ensure transparency and sustainability, the Yidan Prize Foundation manages and governs the funds through an independent trust with an endowment of HK $2.5 billion or around US $323 million dollars.

Shulman: Who is eligible to apply for the Yidan Prize?

Chen: Anyone who has made significant contributions to education research or education development can be nominated. Nominees could be either an individual or a working team of up to three people. Also, it’s a nomination process. Therefore, other people must nominate a potential winner.

Shulman: When do you accept nominations?

Chen: We accept nominations from September 1 onwards for the following year’s prizes. Nominations close on March 31 every year.

Shulman: Who are the winners thus far?

Chen: This year’s laureates, Professor Larry Hedges for Education Research and Professor Anant Agarwal for Education Development, were announced at a press conference in Hong Kong on September 15.

Professor Hedges was named for his work on the meta-analysis of educational studies and for applying rigorous standards to educational data. This initiative was built to help educators and policymakers make better decisions. Professor Agarwal was named for pushing the boundaries on educational access and offerings as founder and CEO of online learning platform edX.

Shulman: How about last year?

Chen: Last year’s laureates were Ms. Vicky Colbert and Professor Carol Dweck. Vicky Colbert was recognized for being a vital driver of the Escuela Nueva schooling model, which is used in 16 countries and enables rural students to receive a high-quality education. Professor Dweck was honored for her research on the role of mindsets and their impact on educational outcomes.

Shulman: What future outcomes would the organization like to see with their winners?

Chen: The Yidan Prize Foundation’s mission is to create a better world through education. Therefore, we want to support the laureates to further their groundbreaking initiatives with the aim of having a truly profound impact on education across the world.

To read more about the Yidan Prize, please visit their website[3].

Connect with me on LinkedIn[4] or Twitter[5] for more educational insights and stories.


  1. ^ Forbes named him “China’s most charitable man.” (
  2. ^ Each of the Yidan Prize laureates receives HK $30 million, or approximately US $3.87 million dollars (
  3. ^ website (
  4. ^ LinkedIn (
  5. ^ Twitter (