Rebecca Winthrop

Rebecca Winthrop

Rebecca Winthrop is a senior fellow and director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution. Her research focuses on education globally, with special attention to the skills young people need to thrive in work, life, and as constructive citizens.

Winthrop works to promote quality and relevant education, including exploring how education innovations and family and community engagement can be harnessed to leapfrog progress, particularly for the most marginalized children and youth. She advises governments, international institutions, foundations, civil society organizations, and corporations on education issues. She currently serves as a board member and adviser for a number of global education organizations and lectures at Georgetown University.

She currently leads the Brookings Family Engagement in Education Network and co-leads the Brookings Community Schools Forward Task Force. She has served as the chair of the U.N. Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative’s Technical Advisory Group, helping to frame an education vision that focuses on access, quality, and global citizenship. With UNESCO Institute of Statistics, she co-led the Learning Metrics Task Force that involved inputs from education professionals in over 100 countries to identify how to measure what matters in education systems. She has been a member of numerous other global education initiatives including the G-20 Education Task Force, the Mastercard Foundation’s Youth Learning Advisory Committee, the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Councils on education, and an education adviser to the Clinton Global Initiative.

Prior to joining the Brookings Institution in June 2009, Winthrop spent 15 years working in the field of education for displaced and migrant communities. As the head of education for the International Rescue Committee, she was responsible for the organization’s 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.

Winthrop has authored numerous articles, reports, books, and book chapters, including most recently “Transforming Education Systems: Why, What, and How” with Hon. Minister David Sengeh; “Collaborating to Transform and Improve Education Systems: A Playbook for Family-School Engagement” with Adam Barton, Masha Ershadi, and Lauren Ziegler; “Leapfrogging Inequality: Remaking Education to Help Young People Thrive” with Adam Barton and Eileen McGivney; “Beyond Reopening Schools: How Education Can Emerge Stronger Than Before COVID-19” with Emiliana Vegas; “Addressing Education Inequality with a Next Generation of Community Schools: A Blueprint for Mayors, States, and the Federal Government” with the Brookings Task Force on Next Generation Community Schools; and “The Need for Civic Education in 21st Century Schools.” Her work has been featured in the BBC, ABC News, CNN, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Newsweek, Time Ideas, NPR, the Economist, the Financial Times, the Guardian, Bloomberg News, Glamour, and CSPAN, among others.

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

  • Areas of Expertise

    • International Education
    • Children's Well-being
    • Civic Education
    • Education Innovation
    • Education in Emergencies
    • Parents and Parenting
    • Post-conflict Reconstruction
    • Skills for a Changing World
  • Current Positions

    • Member, 2024-2025 WISE Prize for Education Committee
    • Member, Civic Leadership Council for the PBS Learning Media Civics Collection
    • Member, Right to Play International Board of Directors
    • Member, Forum for World Education Academic Committee
    • Member, Global Teacher Prize Academy
    • Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University, Walsh School of Foreign Service
    • Mentor, Obama Foundation Scholars Program
    • Member, Global Education Leaders Partnership
    • Member, JA Worldwide Board of Governors
  • Past Positions

    • Member, Alliance for the Future of Digital Learning Expert Council
    • Member, Education Outcomes Fund Advisory Board
    • Member, Fuller Project Board of Directors
    • Member, Global Business Coalition for Education – Impact Advisory Group
    • Member, Advisory Committee, Luminos Fund
    • Member, Imagine Worldwide Board of Directors
    • Member, The Purple Project for Democracy
    • Member, Learning Sciences and Exchange Advisory Council
    • Member, Judging Committee, MIT Solve
    • Chair, UN Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative’s Technical Advisory Committee
    • Member, G-20 Education Task Force
    • Member, World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Councils for Education
    • Steering Committee Member, World Economic Forum’s New Visions for Education Project
    • Member, Mastercard Foundation’s Youth Learning Advisory Committee
    • Track Advisor, Education and Workforce Development, Clinton Global Intiative
    • Head of Education, International Rescue Committee
    • Chair, Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) Steering Group
    • Member, INEE Minimum Standards Working Group
    • Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies Steering Group, Minimum Standards Working Group, and Working Group on Education and Fragility
    • Member, INEE Working Group on Education and Fragility
    • Member, United Nations Humanitarian Aid Reform’s Education Advisory Committee
    • Member, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Safe Schools Advisory Committee
    • Lecturer at Columbia University and University of Ulster
  • Education

    • Ph.D., Teachers College, Columbia University, 2008
    • M.A., School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, 2001
    • B.A., Swarthmore College, 1996
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