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Mark Zuckerberg Makes First Move With Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Hires Education Expert

Published on May 5, 2016 on Forbes.com

In December, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan pledged to give away 99% of their Facebook FB +0.54% shares over their lifetimes via the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative with the goal of making the world a better place. On Wednesday the couple made a move toward their first major investment: education. In a post on Facebook and a video on Facebook Live, Zuckerberg and Chan announced that they have hired James Shelton, former deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, to lead the initiative's education efforts. Zuckerberg and Chan aim to provide students in the U.S. and around the world with personalized learning and reach out to lower income communities.

Shelton said the couple’s work can help kids learn 100 times as much as they do now. Citing inspiration from his 4th grade teacher, he added: “There is nothing you can’t achieve with time, attention, and effort”.  Shelton, who grew up in Washington, D.C., said he knew many peers who worked as much as he did and were smarter, but did not have access to the same education as he did. “Where you live is very determinant of how well you will do in school,” he said.

Zuckerberg admitted Wednesday to having a hard time with languages as a student, especially with Mandarin, and Chan said her worst subject has always been music. (Zuckerberg joked about how his side of the family has perfect pitch, and Chan is not allowed to sing to their newborn daughter, Max.)

“Our children’s lives should be much better than our lives,” Zuckerberg said. Both Chan and Zuckerberg believe in the potential of each individual, and for a better future, they want to unleash that potential.

A pediatrician, Chan said she has always been inspired by teachers and knows how teachers can succeed when they recognize their students’ barriers. “Health, well-being and development of a child” all factor into a kid’s performance, Chan pointed out.  In class, some children get left behind and some are not challenged enough. One goal of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is to personalize teaching, turning the classroom into a more of a one-on-one tutoring experience between student and teacher.

Shelton most recently worked as president of an education technology company, and has worked at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and as a partner at the NewSchools Venture Fund.

Chan and Zuckerberg have been interested in education for a while. The couple has already backed another project called Education Super Highway, which brings broadband to schools for kids to experiment with what the internet has to offer. They have also donated to “Code.org,” a policy initiative that underscores how important parents are and invites them to demand computer science to be a part of regular school curriculum.

The couple, both of whom are 31 years old, said in the video that they see Bill and Melinda Gates as mentors. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is set up as a limited liability company (LLC), which enables the couple to invest in for-profit companies as well as make philanthropic donations and advocate for public policy.  They have said that the initiative will also address issues of health, science and climate change.

FORBES estimates Mark Zuckerberg's net worth at a current $51.4 billion, which makes him the sixth richest person in the world. When he announced the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in December, 99% of his Facebook stock was worth $45 billion. The share price has risen since then; if he were to give that percentage away today, it would be worth around $49 billion. However, the couple's plan is to part with the shares over their lifetime.

Original Post: https://www.forbes.com/sites/denizcam/2016/05/05/mark-zuckerberg-makes-first-move-with-chan-zuckerberg-initiative-hires-education-expert/2/#34a1147410db

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