The Yidan Prize stands for the future of education, for innovation and transformation in education, and for sustainable impact. And no one fits those aspirations better than Professor Usha Goswami, a leading developmental psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist; a highly respected scholar who has been visionary in her approach and transformational in the field.
Many of us consider education an art, with talented and passionate educators making tremendous efforts each day to teach our children and build our future. But the future of education requires more than that. Professor Goswami is at the frontier of developing a new science around education, using cutting-edge imaging technology to help us understand how the brain actually learns, and to recognize the mechanisms of neural processing that are behind individual differences in how children develop language skills, which we all know are at the heart of human development. Thanks to her work, educators can now understand how children’s phonological awareness underpins reading development and dyslexia across languages – at the cognitive, the behavioral, the sensorial and the neural levels.
So while in the past we taught different children in similar ways to read, at the risk that some will fail, like those with dyslexia, Professor Goswami’s work opens a new door to help every child succeed, and to match the intuition of passionate educators with the scientific understanding of how different children learn differently, so that we can embrace that diversity with differentiated pedagogical practice and make educational success predictable, scalable and sustainable.
Of course, scientific evidence is only as valuable as our capacity to act on it. So Professor Goswami didn’t rest on her academic laurels in an ivory tower. She is now leveraging her theoretical, experimental and neural discoveries to design and build new technologies for the remediation of language and phonological difficulties. And she is reaching out to educational leaders and policy-makers around the world to help them understand the crucial importance of learning in the early years and to create greater awareness that we can address difficulties with language learning far more systematically if we truly understand them.
Her ingenuity to generate pathbreaking insights, her capacity to translate these insights into tangible tools for educational improvement, and her commitment to make change happen so that more children develop the skills to access the world’s knowledge and join others in life and citizenship make her the ideal Yidan Prize Laureate, because creating a better world through education is what the Yidan Prize is all about.
I have no doubt that Professor Goswami will become an active player in the global Yidan Prize community that is united by the idea that education holds the key to a better, fairer and more humane world.
Panel Head, Judging Panel for Education Research, Yidan Prize