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Yong  Zhao

Yong Zhao

Globalization & Education Expert

Yong Zhao

Globalization & Education Expert


Yong Zhao is a Foundation Distinguished Professor in the School of Education at the University of Kansas and a professor in Educational Leadership at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education in Australia. He previously served as the Presidential Chair, Associate Dean, and Director of the Institute for Global and Online Education in the College of Education, University of Oregon, where he was also a Professor in the Department of Educational Measurement, Policy, and Leadership. Prior to Oregon, Yong Zhao was University Distinguished Professor at the College of Education, Michigan State University, where he also served as the founding director of the Center for Teaching and Technology, executive director of the Confucius Institute, as well as the US-China Center for Research on Educational Excellence. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Education and a fellow of the International Academy of Education.

Yong Zhao has received numerous awards including the Early Career Award from the American Educational Research Association, Outstanding Public Educator from Horace Mann League of USA, and Distinguished Achievement Award in Professional Development from the Association of Education Publishers. He has been recognized as one of the most influential education scholars.

His works focus on the implications of globalization and technology on education. He has published over 100 articles and 30 books, including An Education Crisis Is a Terrible Thing to Waste: How Radical Changes Can Spark Student Excitement and Success (2019) What Works May Hurt: Side Effects in Education (2018), Reach for Greatness: Personalizable Education for All Children (2018), Counting What Counts: Reframing Education Outcomes (2016), Never Send a Human to Do a Machine’s Job: Correcting Top 5 Ed Tech Mistakes (2015), Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World (2014), Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization (2009) and World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students (2012).

Zhao was born in China’s Sichuan Province. He received his B.A. in English Language Education from Sichuan Institute of Foreign Languages in Chongqing, China in 1986. After teaching English in China for six years, he came to Linfield College as a visiting scholar in 1992. He then began his graduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1993. He received his masters in Education in 1994 and Ph.D. in 1996. He joined the faculty at MSU in 1996 after working as the Language Center Coordinator at Willamette University and a language specialist at Hamilton College.

Speaker Videos

TEDTalk: Every Child Is a Rudolph

TEDTalk: Teach Children to Invent Jobs

How Do We Enhance Our Education?

Speech Topics

Perils or Promises: Education in the Age of Smart Machines

The world needs globally competent creative and entrepreneurial talents to take advantage of the opportunities brought about by technology and globalization. But schools are pushed to produce homogenous, compliant, and employee-minded test-takers, as a result of the traditional education paradigm. Zhao proposes a new education paradigm needed for the new world.

Reach for Greatness: Empowering Your Kids to Harness Their Talents to Conquer the Challenges of the Modern World

Dr. Yong Zhao calls for a paradigm shift in education and brings extensive evidence to show that every child has both the potential and the need to become great. He advocates that the goal of education is to help each child discover and develop their unique strengths and passions so that they can be best prepared to meet the challenges of the modern world including globalization, technology, smart machines and the need to create value for others. To do so, parents and educators need to make education personalized by the child, instead of personalized for the child. Together, we need to help each child find what uniquely makes them great.

Pivoting with Yong

Education needs a paradigm shift from the one-size-fits-all approach to a more personalized one in order to prepare students to thrive in the new world shaped by technology and globalization. Many schools and school leaders are interested in making the shift. This program offers theoretical, strategic, and practical suggestions for leading such a shift.

This series consists of six in person or virtual sessions can be customized, reduced or expanded on to help each schools unique needs.

1. The Forces Behind the Pivot- Discusses the social, political, technological, psychological, and educational forces that drive the paradigm shift in education.
2. How to Pivot (1): School Within a School-Discusses one of the strategies to start the paradigm shift by building a school within a school. A school within a school creates new possibilities for some students and staff without abruptly revolutionizing the existing school.
3. How to Pivot (2): Changing Pedagogy and Staff-Discusses strategies and actions to change pedagogy and staff in schools to offer a more personalized education for students.
4. How to Pivot (3): Relax the Curriculum and Enable Student Voice-Discusses ways to change the curriculum so that personalized curriculum can get started. It emphasizes ways to bring in student as co-owners of their learning and learning environments.
5. How to Pivot (4): Change Assessment and Student Profiles-Discusses ways to rethink school assessment, with a focus on developing student profiles in addition to standardized assessments.
6. Summary and Discussions for Next Steps

Build Back Better! Fostering Creativity, Passion & Entrepreneurship

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused both unprecedented disruptions and massive changes to education. While some changes may disappear, the pandemic has created a unique opportunity for schools to rethink what is necessary, desirable, and even possible for current and future generations. In his inspiring keynote, Yong will explore the essential abilities and spirit of the new world – creativity and entrepreneurship – where every child creates their own value through individual greatness. He’ll also discuss the vital role policymakers can play to build back better an education system that positions students to thrive in the modern world.

Creativity & Entrepreneurship Education: Why & How Schools Can Change to Cultivate Creativity & Entrepreneurship

Creativity and entrepreneurship are the essential abilities and spirit of the new world, where every individual needs to create value using their own unique greatness for others and the world. In the 4th Industrial Revolution, smart machines can take away human jobs but also create new opportunities for the creative and entrepreneur minded. In this presentation, Dr. Yong Zhao discusses what schools can do to create an education that supports the development of creativity and entrepreneurship.

Student as Partners of Change in Education: Self-Determined Learning & Student Ownership of Learning

Educational changes have often been led and implemented by adults but they are supposed to affect students. Students have rarely been considered as owners of their learning or partners of change in education. In this presentation, Dr. Yong Zhao discusses how today's students should be involved in educational changes.

The Role of Technology in Education: How Can Technology Be Used in Education

Never send a human to do a machine's job is the best advice for using technology in education. Today, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers and students have been exposed to the potential of technology in education. As schools reopen, we need to consider how technology can be best integrated with in person education. In this presentation, Dr. Yong Zhao discusses thoughtful and effective uses of technology in collaboration with human educators.

COVID-19 & Education: The Real Changes We Need in Education

In this presentation, Dr. Yong Zhao discusses the real changes we need. These changes should respect students' agency and rights to self-determination. They should address the issues of quality and equity. They should be globally and locally oriented. They should be online and in person. The overall idea is to help each and every student to discover and develop their unique talents and translate their talents and expertise into valuable solutions to significant problems.

What Works May Hurt: Side Effects in Education

Evidence-based education has been popular, but what evidence matters. In this presentation, Dr. Yong Zhao talks about the various issues about evidence. In particular, he discusses that education has multiple outcomes and the outcomes can conflict with each other. Achieving one outcome may come at the cost of another outcome. The same education intervention can both improve some outcomes but cause damage to other outcomes.