Indian social activist and founder of the Pratham education charity, Dr Madhav Chavan, has been awarded the inaugural WISE (World Innovation Summit for Education) Prize, the world’s leading accolade for education.
Dr Chavan was honoured with the £500,000 prize at the annual WISE conference in Doha, Qatar, in recognition of his education work in the slums of Mumbai.
The son of a left-wing politician, Dr Chavan completed his Ph. D. in the United States before travelling to Mumbai to teach Chemistry in the late 1980’s.
While there, he was struck by the plight of the city’s poor, in particular the inaccessibility of education to large segments of the population.
Pratham, the NGO which he founded in collaboration with UNICEF and the Mumbai city government, is today the largest non-governmental provider of basic literacy and numeracy for underprivileged children in India, operating in 17 out of 28 Indian states.
Accepting the WISE Prize for Education, Madhav Chavan said: “Some 25 years ago I saw that new thinking was needed to improve the lives of the millions of underprivileged in my country. Many individuals and organizations have contributed to what has been achieved, and I share this tribute with them. WISE is pursuing a similar mission on a global scale, and I applaud its bold vision and inclusive approach. This Prize is a major landmark that reminds me how much more remains to be done. It is an enormous honor for me to be recognized by this unique community of innovators, and I hope to perform my duties as a global ambassador for education to the best of my ability.”
WISE Chairman Dr Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani said: “Madhav Chavan serves as an inspiration to all of us. His story combines the passion of a social entrepreneur with the patience and method of a scientist.”
The award was decided by an international jury, including the US Librarian of Congress, Dr James Billington; the president of Peking University, Prof Zhou Qifeng; former UN high commissioner, Mary Robinson and Dr Al-Thani.
Founded in 2009 by the Qatar Foundation, WISE is a Davos-style global forum aimed at promoting innovation in education.
The WISE prize is often referred to as the ‘Nobel Prize’ for education.