Yan Pan

Yan Pan


I am an independent education researcher hoping to understand the greater forces that are shaping education innovations, and what are the critical innovations education systems have to adopt for a ethical and sustainable global future.

I am Yan Pan from China. A recent graduate from the Evergreen State College in the US, and was an attendee of Xing Wei College in China. I am very interested in the past, present, and future of the most important changes, ideas, and approaches of education. Having studied in progressive universities where student-centered learning, interdisciplinary teaching and research, as well as social engagement are core values and approaches, I am inspired to keep exploring the vast field of education innovation, and diving deeper into the ideas, theories, and systems that prevent/allow education innovation, as similarly defined by HundrED, to take place.

Currently I am working on an independent research to understand the philosophical, historical, and global context of education innovation movement in China, interning at 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing, as well as running a student-initiated international magazine with colleagues from around the world. 

Why do you want to be a part of the HundrED Community?

By becoming a member of the HundrED Ambassador network, I wish to be a bridge to facilitate and promote connections, exchanges, collaborations, and deeper understandings of education innovation movements between China and the world. Ideally, this will help Chinese educators, practitioners, and policy makers better understand the global forces, dynamics, and relevant best practices, develop global perspectives, and find well-grounded solutions to educational challenges in China today. On the other hand, the global education innovators can also become more familiar with the rapid changes and innovations happening in China’s educational landscapes.

The future for each of our individuals and societies will be deeper integrated into globalization. I believe that it is necessary and will be beneficial for educators around the world to develop more understanding, knowledge, and experiences through global shared experiences, so as to have broad visions, create better educational frameworks for the globalized world, and to better educate the younger generations for the complex and fast changing local and global challenges facing the world community.

Education starts from the individual level. It is through my personal changes and growth that I found my passion and calling towards educating for critical individual and social transformations.

Since 7 years ago, I have been seeking for a different kind of education from what is commonly offered in my country China. The reasons were that I didn’t feel a sense of purpose or even connection to my own self in the traditional schools in China; I constantly felt constrained by what I can think or do, and hopeless in the possibilities to make my own decisions. It was my deepest hope at that time to better understand myself through education.

Since I finished my second year in high school, I decided to drop out of school, started working, and seek for a different education. Slowly, I found my path in two innovative universities in China and the US. Both schools characterize with student-centered pedagogy and curriculum, collaborative and participatory learning, practice in the real world, and cultivation of students’ sense of purpose and social responsibility. Because of these institutions and the values I was exposed to, I had many opportunities to explore my curiosities, take on responsibilities and work with real world projects, expanded my mind through interdisciplinary, socially relevant, and adaptive curriculums and critical ideas.

Slowly, I learned much more about myself: my interests, motivations, and passion. And during my senior year, I was able to plan and conduct an independent research to investigate policy and school innovation models in various countries (China, Denmark, Finland, and Czech Republic) that can help students develop autonomy, creativity, and problem-solving skills.

Upon visiting over 20 education institutions and speaking with more than 50 experts from various backgrounds working for education, I began to see some bigger forces beyond individual educators, students, and institutions that are at work, influencing the realities of education innovation globally.

These bigger forces include cultures, histories, ideas, local educational policies, national educational goals, global science and policy trends, neoliberal discourses, competition for the knowledge economy, and prominent global problems such environmental degradation, multicultural integration challenges, and an innovation-drive economy. I came to understand education as something beyond the cultivation of individuals or school level operations. But rather that education has much far reaching and complex determining factors, and produces profound and critical implications for societies at large.

So today I seek innovations in education that transforms schools, students, the education sectors, local, national communities, and that plays a role in addressing global challenges.

How can education support students to flourish?

1. by helping students develop and find their sense of self

2. by helping students develop a sense of power and agency through practices and interaction with the real world

3. by helping students understand the structures, challenges, and demands from the larger society, and finding their role within it

4. by helping students develop strong values, multiple intelligence, ability to foster relationships, and the ideals to work towards social/public good

What role does innovation play in education change?

So today I seek innovations in education that transforms schools, students, the education sectors, local, national communities, and that plays a role in addressing global challenges.

As I start to think more in this respective, I also start to see that the responsibilities for education innovation: towards a sustainable and ethical global future. I believe that educators and educators broadly speaking sector today must hold strong commitment to help individual students flourish by reaching their purpose and potentials, as well as to leverage educational institutions, processes, and outcomes as critical approaches to positive social change.

In my country, I think there lacks enough innovative educational ideas, theories, sciences, practices, models and communities that work towards the individual and social goals of education. Although there are emerging movements from around the country, pioneering education innovations on school, pedagogy, and policy level, they make up only very small percentage of the educators and have not accumulated sufficient experience, influence, and tested outcomes to influence the broader dominant education climate that is characterized by a banking model of education in which students are treated as passive receivers and are molded into useful workers in societies. Students’ individual talents, motivations, and passion are overlooked. And education is used as a process to support the advancement of existing economic structures and feed the well-defined holes in the economy sector. Students are cut away from the larger societal realities, cut away from the critical challenges that emerge from the norms, and deprived of their critical consciousness and moral high ground to advocate and fight for a more ethical and sustainable global future. I believe that more people should bring in new ideas, practices, and models of education to inspire the Chinese education communities to think differently and more progressively adopt humanistic, holistic, and sustainable educational practices at various levels.

Three HundrED innovations you love. (and Why?)

1. The Snail-Based Learning

2. Community Share

3. PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs

Three innovations you would love for HundrED to know about. (and Why?)

1. Voice 21

2. TingTing Poetry Education

3. Design for Change