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Shai Reshef & Michelene Chi won Yidan Award for work in education

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Shai Reshef & Michelene Chi won Yidan Award for work in education

Shai Reshef, president and founder of the tuition-free, online University of the People, and Michelene Chi, a professor and researcher at Arizona State University who developed a framework to improve student learning, are winners of the 2023 Yidan Prize, the biggest award in education.

Reshef and Chi will each receive HK$15 million ($1.9 million) from the Hong Kong-based Yidan Prize Foundation, as well as an additional HK$15 million ($1.9 million) ) from unrestricted funds to continue their work, the organization announced Wednesday.

Edward Ma, secretary general of the Yidan Prize Foundation, said Reshef and Chi will become Yidan Laureates and join the laureates of the previous seven years to work together to improve education locally and globally.

“We see it as strategic philanthropy that achieves greater impact by calling together this all-star team of educators from different parts of the world together,” Ma told The Associated Press. “We have people who are very familiar with the international space, like the World Bank, or the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), but they rarely sit at the same table and all discuss the same topic and try to come to a consensus.”

Reshef and Chi will join other honorees at the summit in December to receive their awards and discuss potential advances in education.

Reshef hopes that winning the Yidan Prize for Educational Development will help the University of the People – UoPeople for short – solve its biggest problem, which is helping more people learn more. Although UoPeople currently has about 137,000 students from more than 200 countries, including more than 16,500 refugees, Reshef hopes to provide free, online higher education to millions more in need.

“Winning the most important award in education means that someone checked you out and thought you deserved it, which is so nice,” Reshef told The AP in an interview. “On a personal level – for the last 15 years, for 16 hours a day, I have been doing nothing but working on University of the People – to get this recognition, it pretty much says that I was probably right thinking this was the right thing to do.”

Shai Reshef & Michelene Chi won Yidan Award for work in education
Michelene-Chi-left-and-Shai-Rishef-right

Currently, UoPeople only teaches students in English and more recently Arabic due to the large number of Syrian refugees enrolled. Reshef wants to use the financial support from the award to organize Spanish classes to help Venezuelan refugees, as well as provide job placement services for graduates. He also hopes the award will encourage others to replicate the UoPeople model, where students pay no tuition, just reduced fees for each course they take to earn their degree.

Chi, director of the Learning and Cognition Lab at Arizona State and a professor at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, won the Yidan Prize in Educational Research for his ICAP theory, Help teachers design more engaging lesson plans and activities. students and enhance their understanding of complex topics, including STEM subjects.

“What makes this award so exciting is that it means I can now do the translation work,” she said. “I’m actually going to translate the evidence-based findings into things practitioners can actually use.”

Through her research, Chi has identified many concrete changes teachers can make to increase their students’ understanding of their lessons. Some are as simple as changing the words used in assignments – “explain” or “justify” are better than “review” or “match” – or taking breaks in a lecture every few minutes so students can reset their attention on a topic. Other teaching alterations may be slightly more complex – asking students to find an error rather than a solution or using one of their questions as the center of a lesson.

Chi hopes to use the award to provide training based on her findings for teachers around the world. She also hopes to explore ways to design lesson plans and possibly write a student guide in conjunction with her research.

“Translating research and work in the classroom is much harder than people think,” Chi said. “I think this is a really novel avenue that the Yidan Prize Foundation is using, which is really awesome.”

Ma said he hopes the Yidan Prize will lead to more philanthropic donations for Chi and Reshef to continue and expand their work. He said the award selection committees are meticulous in their due diligence, helping future donors feel more confident in the strength of the new laureates’ work.

“We want to make it known to a wider audience, cutting across international organizations, philanthropic foundations, schools, universities and also policymakers,” Ma said. “There is a sweet spot where everyone can find the benefits of these ideas.”


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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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