Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan: U.S. schools need technology, one-on-one instruction

Key Points
  • Mark Zuckerberg has sold $942 million worth of Facebook stock this year to fund his philanthropy, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
  • It's focused on education, health and criminal justice reform
  • Among the lessons he learned this year: Technology can help improve U.S. schools
Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg
Adam Berry | Getty Images

New technologies and one-on-one instruction can fix the U.S. school system, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan said in a Facebook post describing the lessons they've learned about philanthropy in 2017.

The online letter, which can be found in full here, also asserted that exceptional engineering talent and a long-term view makes the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, their philanthropic organization, unique.

"The magic of technology is that it can help social change scale faster. And because of Mark's experience building a world-class engineering organization at Facebook, we are in a unique position to build a philanthropy with a great engineering team to help our partners scale their social change faster as well," the couple said in the post.

Zuckerberg has sold more than $900 million worth of Facebook shares this year to fund the initiative, which is focused on education, health care and issues like affordable housing and criminal-justice reform.

"The most important lesson we've learned is to focus on problems we have some unique ability to help solve...In this year's letter, we'll discuss two aspects of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative that have shaped our work so far: a truly long term approach and a technology mindset."

"One challenge we've seen in education is that there are many brilliant teachers and school leaders who create new kinds of schools based on new models of learning -- but those schools usually only serve hundreds of students, while most children still do not have access to them...

"Our hope is that technology can help with this scaling challenge. We're seeing promising signs of early success, where our partnership with Summit Public Schools has helped encode their teaching philosophy in tools that will be used in more than 300 district, charter, and private schools this fall."

The couple also cited research about the benefits of what they call "personalized learning."

"If a student is at the 50th percentile in their class and they receive effective one-on-one tutoring, they jump on average to the 98th percentile. That suggests we need an education system where all students receive the equivalent of an expert one-on-one tutor...

"We're going to build tools that include other schools' approaches too. There are 25,000 middle and high schools in the US, and our goal is help many of them use these tools over the next decade."

In health care, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is backing a project called the Human Cell Atlas, which hopes to map every human cell, just as the Human Genome Project previously did with all human genes.