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Press Release March 18, 2014

Applications and nominations will open today for the Varkey GEMS Foundation Global Teacher Prize, a one million dollar award that will be given to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.

The opening of the process was announced by Sunny Varkey, Founder of the Varkey GEMS Foundation, at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey GEMS Foundation, said:

 “I want to draw attention to the achievements of teachers and the enormous impact they have on all of our lives.  They must be returned to their rightful position as the most respected profession in society, which is properly rewarded and celebrated”.

 “This prize is not just about money. It’s about unearthing thousands of stories of courage and inspiration.

“We want to inspire children from far-flung villages, towns and cities around the world to say  ‘I want that prize!’  How many kids say they want to be a reality TV star?  Let’s get them aiming to be the greatest teacher in the world”

The winning candidate will be a teacher who has achieved exceptional results in student learning, and won the respect of the community through activities beyond the classroom. He/she will have provided a role model to other teachers through charity, community work or other cultural achievements.  The winner will also have encouraged other teachers to join the profession and contributed to discussions and debates about how to raise teaching standards. He/she will also have opened up access to a quality education for children of all backgrounds, and prepared young people to be ‘global citizens’, comfortable with peers from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.

The award – the equivalent of a ‘Nobel Prize’  – will operate under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai.  It will underline the importance of the teaching profession and symbolise the fact that teachers throughout the world deserve to be recognised and celebrated.

President Bill Clinton, Honorary Chairman of the Varkey GEMS Foundation, said:

 “Attracting the best people to teaching, developing and supporting their skills, and holding our teachers in high regard — all are critically important to achieve excellence, both in teaching and learning.”


The prize is open to currently working teachers who teach children that are in compulsory schooling, or are below the age of eighteen. Head-teachers with teaching responsibilities are also eligible to apply.  The prize is open to teachers in every kind of school and, subject to local laws, in every country in the world.  The closing date for applications will be August 31st 2014, and the winner will be announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum 2015 in Dubai next spring.

Applications will be judged by a prize committee, who will meet this October to choose a shortlist of ten candidates. The prize committee will include Sunny Varkey, Founder, Varkey GEMS Foundation; Vikas Pota, Chairman of the Varkey GEMS Foundation; Sir Michael Tomlinson, former Chief Inspector of Schools; Ann Mroz, Editor, Times Education Supplement; and Karen Giles, Headteacher, Barham Primary School, London.

A winner will be chosen from these ten finalists in November 2014 by the Global Teacher Prize Academy made up of head-teachers, educational experts, commentators, journalists, public officials, tech entrepreneurs, company directors and scientists from the UK, the US, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Austria, Pakistan, Philippines, Netherlands, Thailand, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Japan, Nigeria, Uganda, Singapore, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, India and Turkey,

The academy includes prominent names such as Academy Award winning actor Kevin Spacey; Baroness Martha Lane Fox, founder of; the Grammy winning jazz musician and singer Esperanza Spalding; US social activist and educator Geoffrey Canada; Nigerian businessman Jubril Adewale Tinubu, Group CEO, Oando; Strive Masiyiwa, Founder & Executive Chairman, Econet Wireless, South Africa; British philosopher David Rodin; Hadeel Ibrahim, the Executive Director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, and Jiang Xueqin, Vice-Principal, Tsinghua International School, China.

The public can nominate a teacher, or teachers can apply themselves by filling an application form at If teachers are being nominated, the person nominating them will write a brief description online explaining why.  The teacher being nominated will then be sent an email letting them know they’ve been nominated and inviting them to apply for the prize.   Applicants can apply in English, and from May onwards, in Mandarin, Arabic, French, Spanish and Portuguese.  To join the conversation online follow #TeacherPrize on: and

Teachers who are applying will have to provide references from their current supervisor and up to two additional references.  These can include video testimonials about their work in the classroom and beyond, and can come from pupils, colleagues, head-teachers as well as members of the wider community.

The winner will be paid the prize money in equal instalments over ten years, and the Varkey GEMS Foundation will provide the winner with financial counselling. Without compromising their work in the classroom, the winner will be asked to serve as a global ambassador for the Varkey GEMS Foundation, attending public events and speaking in public forums about improving the prestige of the teaching profession. A condition of winning the prize is that the winner remains as a classroom teacher for at least five years.

The Global Teacher Prize follows a long-standing commitment to improve the status of teachers by the Varkey GEMS Foundation (VGF).  Last November, the VGF published the Global Teacher Status Index, the first attempt to compare attitudes towards teachers in 21 countries.  The index found that there were significant differences between the status of teachers worldwide.

In two-thirds of countries, the status of teachers was judged to be most similar to that of social workers. Only in China did people rank teachers as having a similar status to doctors.   The survey also found that in many countries – including Portugal, Japan, Brazil, Germany, Czech Republic, Germany, France, and Italy – between a third and half of parents would probably or definitely not encourage their children from entering the teaching profession.