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Recognising “world class” contributions to education: The WISE Prize

In a unique development not unrelated to ongoing global discussions of excellence, relevance and impact in education, the Qatar Foundation has recently announced what it describes as the “world’s first major international prize for education”. The WISE Prize will recognise one individual (or a team of up to six people working together) for “outstanding and world-class” contributions having resulted in “major change in the world of education” with “a lasting impact on a significant scale”.

Citing education’s central role as both “a basic right and a powerful catalyst” in all aspects of human development and activity, the Qatar Foundation notes that many individual disciplines award prizes for excellence, however the field of education, which is a fundamental “prerequisite for achievement in all those areas”, has not been singled out for recognition in any similarly high-profile way. The WISE Prize aims to fill that gap. Nominations for the award will be accepted between 1 February and 30 April 2011. A preliminary list of no more than 15 semi-finalists will be selected, from which a (still-to-be-named) jury of “internationally renowned personalities” will select a winner. The award will be given out at the WISE conference in Doha in 2011 and will consist of a gold medal and a cash prize of USD 500 000.

WISE stands for World Innovation Summit for Education and was initiated by the Qatar Foundation in 2009 with an overarching mission to “harness the expertise and experience of multiple stakeholders to address the challenges facing 21st-century education and to implement practical and sustainable solutions”. In addition to an annual international conference the WISE initiative also includes several different kinds of activities, including a leadership program for recently appointed university leaders from developing countries; a series of television programmes on education, collectively known as “Learning World”; and the WISE Awards, which are given annually to six “original and outstanding educational achievements that have made a positive impact on societies”.

WISE Prize for Education