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Serena H C Yang Professorship in Early Childhood Development and Education
"Education is the key to improving our world, and the potentially transformative power of Early Childhood Education has never been more apparent. It is my hope that this endowment will provide the impetus to research in Early Childhood Development and Education that will lead to a genuine transformation of people’s lives throughout the world."
Dr Serena H C Yang
Appointed in 2014
Research showing rapid early brain development and the positive long term effects of early education has led to an unprecedented emphasis on the early childhood period. A child’s early years lay the foundation for success not only in schooling but for lifelong development and learning. Hence, one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education - a poor start for children means a massive loss of human potential that eventually impacts societal development. The Faculty of Education has been in the forefront of the field of Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE) with research which has focused on understanding how, why and under what conditions early childhood programmes are effective in promoting development and learning.
Professor Nirmala Rao, Professor in the Faculty of Education and Dean of Graduate School has been recognised internationally for her research on ECDE in Asian cultural contexts. This research has focused on the development, evaluation, and dissemination of evidence-based programmes directed at children in the early childhood stage of development with the objective of finding out why these programmes have the short- and long-term effects that they do.
A Developmental and Chartered (Educational) Psychologist, Professor Rao completed her BA at Bangalore University, her MS and PhD at Tulane University, New Orleans and her postdoctoral training in paediatric psychology at Children’s Hospital, New Orleans. She joined HKU over 25 years ago and has played a critical role in establishing teaching and research programmes in ECDE in the Faculty of Education which now has a global reputation for its doctoral training and research in ECDE.
Professor Rao is also actively involved in professional organisations that aim to promote the well-being of children through research and advocacy efforts and currently serves on the executive committees of several international professional organisations. She was selected as one of 12 experts worldwide in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) by UNESCO to coincide with the first World Conference on ECCE in Moscow in 2010 where she gave a keynote speech. She has participated in international meetings as an expert/specialist, written advocacy materials, and undertaken consultancies for UNICEF, UNESCO, the World Bank and the WHO. Her research team has recently completed a review entitled, Early Childhood Development and Cognitive Development in Developing Countries for the British government and is leading the development and validation of the East Asia Pacific – Early Childhood Development Scales for UNICEF in seven countries in the region. The impact of completed projects is evident in scientific publications and through their influence on educational policy in Hong Kong and elsewhere.
Professor Rao is the author of over 80 publications (including 54 articles in peer-reviewed international journals, three books, 20 book chapters and research reports) and over 116 conference papers. She also serves on the Editorial Board for several journals, is the Associate Editor of Child Development and Developmental Psychology and a member of the Steering Committee for the upcoming Lancet Series on Early Child Development.