Pratham CEO Rukmini Banerji wins 2021 Yidan Prize

Dr Rukmini Banerji awarded the 2021 Yidan Prize, the world’s highest education accolade

Dr Banerji is known for her work in improving learning outcomes

Pratham Education Foundation founder Dr Rukmini Banerji. Credit: prathamusa.org

In an achievement for India, founder of Pratham Education Foundation Dr Rukmini Banerji was awarded the coveted 2021 Yidan Prize, the world’s highest education accolade.

This year, Dr Banerji and Prof Eric A. Hanushek were awarded the prize to recognise their ground-breaking work addressing a crucial piece of the education puzzle: improving the quality of education and outcomes for learners at scale.

Each laureate will be awarded HK$30 million (approximately US$3.9 million), half of which is a project fund, enabling a series of innovative and progressive education projects to scale up and support millions of learners globally.

Following a rigorous judging process, conducted by an independent judging committee of recognized education experts, Dr Banerji and Prof  Hanushek were selected as the recipients of the 2021 Yidan Prize for Education Research and Yidan Prize for Education Development. 

They will join nine laureates who have been awarded the Yidan Prize since its inception in 2016, established by the Yidan Prize Foundation, a philanthropic education foundation.

Dr Banerji is known for her work in improving learning outcomes. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) assessment approach, pioneered by Dr Banerji and her team in India, revealed literacy and numeracy gaps among children who had already spent several years at school. 

To close these gaps, her team’s “Teaching at the Right Level” (TaRL) program works with schools and local communities to provide basic reading and arithmetic skills. 

This systematic, replicable model reaches millions of children annually across the country and is spreading around the globe.

“Dr Rukmini Banerji and the Pratham team have a clear mission: ‘Every child in school and learning well’. A reminder that we need to focus on education quality and not just school enrolments. The solutions that they have deployed towards this goal have proven to be cost-effective and scalable with a demonstrated potential to impact globally—disruptive education innovation with transformative results”, said Dorothy K. Gordon, head of Yidan Prize for Education Development judging panel, and Board Member of the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education.

With the support of the Yidan Prize, Dr Banerji plans to strengthen and expand Pratham’s work with young children so that strong foundations can be built early in a child’s life. Dr Banerji believes this will contribute significantly towards the goal of seeing “every child in school and learning well”.

"The quality and diversity of this year’s nominations reflect the drive and passion around the world to unlock new approaches to education. Our nominees are working on projects that span over 130 countries and territories. They are rethinking education systems from top to bottom, tackling inequities and empowering learners,” Dr Koichiro Matsuura, Chairman of the Yidan Prize Judging Committee and the former Director-General of UNESCO said.

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