Professor Yongxin Zhu


Yidan Prize for Education Development




Supporting teachers’ growth in China and beyond



Judge's citation

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Professor Yongxin Zhu

Founder, New Education Initiative (NEI)


Teacher professional development; Student wellbeing; Primary and secondary education; Literacy for all

A collaborative approach that champions personal growth and well-being

With a philosophy that emphasises the importance of joy and well-being in learning, Professor Zhu’s ideas have helped to overhaul the way millions of students and teachers interact and grow in China and beyond.


He founded the New Education Initiative (NEI) in 2000, starting out from a single school, with a goal to improve education equity and bring change to the teaching-to-test culture in China. NEI’s network now numbers more than 8,300 schools and 500,000 teachers, reaching more than 8 million children in China—many based in hard-to-reach rural areas.


Crucially, the NEI puts reading, writing, and communication at the center of education, with one more thing: collaboration. As part of the program, students, teachers, and parents read and write together, transforming schools and homes into positive educational environments and changing the way families live and learn for the better.


The NEI has been just as important for developing the skills and knowledge base of teachers. Through its ‘Teacher Growth Model’, educators are able to keep up to date with the latest academic research, and are encouraged to write and share their experiences with other practitioners. The result is a supportive community in which teachers feel connected and valued, and build leadership skills.


Building on NEI’s Teacher Growth Model, Professor Zhu established the New Teacher Foundation at Soochow University in mainland China, improving the quality of education through professional teacher development.

Professor Zhu is successfully addressing some of the most intractable challenges in education: improving equity and inclusiveness. His work encourages an appreciation of the value of learning for personal growth by improving reading, writing and communication. He has succeeded in gradually changing how teachers approach professional development and how students learn in classrooms and at home. Perhaps most importantly, he reminds us of the importance of joy and well-being for every learner.

Dorothy K. Gordon

Panel Head, Judging Panel for Education Development, Yidan Prize

Featured initiatives

Supported by the Yidan Prize project funds
Supporting teachers’ growth in China and beyond

The New Teacher Foundation programs at Soochow University improve the quality of education, especially in rural and remote schools.



More about Professor Yongxin Zhu


2022 Yidan Prize for Education Development Laureate


Meet Professor Yongxin Zhu


Acceptance Speech