Ms Vicky Colbert

Founder and Director, Fundación Escuela Nueva (FEN)


Yidan Prize for Education Development




Quality education, Equality in education, Learning methods, Lifelong education, Teaching and learning, Social and emotional education

Focus by region

Africa, North America, South America

Establishing a new model of education worldwide

Ms Vicky Colbert is founder and director of Fundación Escuela Nueva. Ms Colbert is a Sociologist from Javeriana University in Colombia. She pursued her graduate studies in Sociology of Education and Comparative International Education at Stanford University in the USA. In 2015, the American University of Nigeria distinguished her with an Honoris Causa Doctorate in Philosophy. Colbert is co-author of the worldwide renowned Escuela Nueva model and was its first National Coordinator.

She has pioneered, expanded and sustained educational innovation from many organizational spheres: as Vice minister of Education of Colombia, UNICEF ́s Education Adviser for LAC and now from Fundación Escuela Nueva (FEN), an NGO she founded to ensure its quality, sustainability and innovation.



She has been recognized with several awards and distinctions in the fields of leadership and social entrepreneurship, such as the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, 2013 WISE Prize for Education Laureate, the Clinton Global Citizenship Award and the Kravis Prize. She has also been recognized as Outstanding Social Entrepreneur by the Schwab Foundation, Ashoka and the World Technology Network.


Fueling the implementation of the Escuela Nueva education model

Equal opportunities for quality education for rural children

The Yidan Prize funds are used by Ms Vicky Colbert to support the strategic developments of Fundación Escuela Nueva (FEN), focusing on two main initiatives including providing matching funds to implement the Escuela Nueva education model in Colombia, and developing specific activities for internal Research & Development initiatives.

Learn more about this initiative
“The FEN model excels in developing both intellectual and social-emotional capacities of its students—an inspiring testament to the fact that well-rounded progressive education is not a privilege reserved for students in developed economies.”

By Ms Dorothy K. Gordon

Panel Head, Judging Panel for Education Development, Yidan Prize

Over the past 40 years, Ms Vicky Colbert has developed and successfully promoted, across 16 countries in 3 continents, an innovative learner-centered approach to rural schools that equips students from the most resource-constrained regions with 21st century skills.

The transformative, evidence-based Escuela Nueva model – meaning New School in English – is a systemic approach that promotes learning through dialogue and interaction. It allows for active, self-paced learning that is adapted to local needs. Through a participatory and collaborative approach that allows for cross-peer tutoring, children are given the opportunity to learn to learn; while a flexible promotion mechanism engenders an open, supportive environment that strengthens the relationship between schools and the community.

Escuela Nueva has been influencing public policy and improving education structures for decades in Colombia and internationally. With an emphasis on innovation, evaluation and continuous improvement, Escuela Nueva presents a tested, yet novel educational model that facilitates our children to grow together harmoniously. It is a universal system that has the proven track record of transcending national, cultural, political and economic boundaries to benefit hard-to-reach students.

The judging panel is thoroughly impressed by how Ms Colbert’s work demonstrates that high quality schooling can be cost-effective in the harshest environments. Her model excels in developing both intellectual and social-emotional capacities of its students – an inspiring testament to the fact that well-rounded progressive education is not a privilege reserved for students in developed economies.

At a time when rapid urbanization sees more than half of the world’s population living in cities, humanity collectively is in dire need of high quality education that is accessible and affordable to struggling communities, building the necessary foundation for improved and sustainable livelihoods for countless migrant youth in search for employment across the world.

And yet, the impact of Ms Colbert’s work goes far beyond formal schooling in rural communities. In 1987, she co-founded Fundación Escuela Nueva (FEN), selected as one of the best NGOs in the world, to preserve the quality and integrity of the Escuela Nueva model, and to replicate its ecosystem of life-empowering, contextual learning experience across both rural and urban areas in a wide range of settings.

I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Ms Vicky Colbert again for her life’s work and tremendous achievement. I look forward to learning how her footprints can spread to the benefit of children worldwide with the award of the Yidan Prize. On behalf of the judging panel I wish her and her colleagues continued success in their dedicated work to give every child the opportunity to benefit from holistic quality education.