Penn Education Prof Promotes Ideas on International Development

Daniel Wagner has crisscrossed the globe, exchanging ideas on educational development and sustainability.

This year alone, he’s published two books, attended the United Nations’ World Education Forum in Incheon, South Korea, and a U.N. conference on education and sustainable development in Quito, Ecuador, and traveled to Europe. 

It’s all part of his job as director of the International Education Development Program in the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education where he is also director of the International Literacy Institute and holds the UNESCO Chair in Learning and Literacy

In addition to being widely published in professional journals, he is the author or editor of 25 books. 

Learning and Education in Developing Countries, edited by Wagner provides a comprehensive research-based review of learning and educational quality in developing countries. Written by specialists from around the world, the book covers areas such as early literacy, new technology, conflict-affected contexts, informal education and learning assessment, all topics that are among the most crucial for policy makers. 

The book illustrates what is known and what needs to be learned about improving education on a global scale and coincides with the U.N.’s next set of sustainable development goals to improve educational quality. With support from the Brookings Institution, the book was written while Wagner was the chair of its Global Research Taskforce on Learning. 

“Improving learning for all children is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century,” he says. “The book asks pertinent questions such as: What is learning? Does learning happen the same way around the world? What kinds of social and economic factors affect learning and the quality of education? Research on these issues in developing countries will be needed to foster informed educational policy development.” 

Another of his books, Literacy: Developing the Future, has been published in five languages. 

At the invitation-only World Education Forum in Korea, Wagner was a participant, along with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and the heads of organizations such as the World Bank, UNESCO and UNICEF

With his extensive experience in national and international education issues, Wagner has been an advisor to UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Bank, USAID, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and others. 

Then, at the Sustainable Development International Conference for the Andean Region in Quito, Wagner delivered the keynote education address, “The Role of Learning in the Era of Sustainable Development Goals.” 

Wagner’s most recent multi-year projects have taken him to India, South Africa and Morocco. For his work in South Africa, Wagner received last year’s UNESCO Confucius International Literacy Prize

Next on his itinerary is a book about international education that’s nearly complete and a fall semester filled with more travel, including serving as a keynote speaker discussing massive open online courses at the International Conference on Open and Distance Education in Johannesburg, South Africa. He’s also been invited to the Vatican for a conference in November about the links between education and Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change. 

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