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Rebecca Winthrop

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Rebecca Winthrop is a senior fellow and director of the Center for Universal Education. She is the former head of education for the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian aid NGO. Her research focuses on education in the developing world, with special attention to the skills children need to succeed in life, and improving quality learning for the most marginalized children and youth, including girls and children affected by extreme violence. 

Dr. Winthrop works to promote equitable learning issues for young people in developing countries. She advises governments, international institutions, foundations, and corporations on education and development issues, and provides guidance to a number of important education policy actors. Prior to joining Brookings in June 2009, Dr. Winthrop spent 15 years working in the field of education for displaced and migrant communities, most recently as the head of education for the International Rescue Committee. There she was responsible for the organizations’ education work in over 20 conflict-affected countries. She has been actively involved in developing the evidence base around and global attention to education in the developing world.  In her prior position she helped develop global policy for the education in emergencies field, especially around the development of global minimum standards for education in contexts of armed conflict and state fragility.

She has been appointed to a number of global education initiatives, including the Clinton Global Initiative Collaborative to Harness Ambition and Resources for Girls’ Education (CHARGE), Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative, the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council for Education and its New Vision for Education project Steering Committee, UN secretary-general’s Global Education First Initiative’s Technical Advisory Committee, Secretariat for the Learning Metrics Task Force (LMTF) co-convened with UNESCO, advisor for the Council for Development of Analysis for Development policies of France (CAPD), Clinton Global Initiative’s education advisory, on the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies, the MasterCard Foundation’s Youth Learning Advisory Committee, Teach for All advisory committee, the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Education Cluster Advisory Committee, and the 10x10 Girls Education Advisory Committee. She has field experience in a wide variety of contexts, including Afghanistan, Costa Rica, Croatia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Kosovo, Liberia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Uganda.

Select recent publications include Raising the Global Ambition for Girls’ Education, with Eileen McGivney (The Brookings Institution: December 2014), Investment in Global Education: A Strategic Imperative for Business, with G.Bulloch, P. Bhatt, and A. Wood (The Brookings Institution, September 2013); A New Agenda for Education in Fragile States, with E. Matsui (Center for Universal Education Working Paper Series 10, August 2013); A New Face of Education: Bringing Technology into the Classroom in the Developing World, with M. Smith (Brooke Shearer Working Paper Series 1, The Brookings Institution, January 2012); and Prospects for Bilateral Aid to Basic Education Put Students at Risk, with P. Abetti, S. Beardmore, and C. Tapp (The Brookings Institution, August 2011). She has authored chapters for numerous books, including “Learning from Humanitarian Aid” in Delivering Aid Differently; “Home-based Schools: A Transitional Education Model in Afghanistan” in Education, Conflict and Reconciliation: International Perspectives; and “Female Classroom Assistants: Agents of Change in Refugee Classrooms in West Africa?” in The Structure and Agency of Women’s Education. Additional publications have appeared in journals such as Comparative Education Review, Current History, Forced Migration Review, International Review of Education, Journal of Education for International Development, Teaching and Teacher Education, and Women’s Studies Quarterly.

She was educated at Columbia University, Teachers College (Ph.D, 2008), Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs (MA, 2001), and Swarthmore College, (BA, 1996).