Research Specialist

United Nations Children's Fund, Florence, Italy

Skill Required:, Education ManagementResearch and Analysis
Preferred Experience: 
5 years
Closing Date for Applications: 
17th October, 2021

Job Description

Job organizational context

  • The Office of Research-Innocenti (OoR-Innocenti) is the dedicated research office of UNICEF. It undertakes and commissions research on issues of relevance for children in order to inform the strategic directions, policies and programmes of UNICEF, Governments and their partners. The Office identifies research gaps, brings together existing researchers, and supports or undertakes research and data collection to address critical questions at country and global levels.
  • Every child has the right to learn. Although more children than ever before are enrolled in school, the duty-bearers obligated to realize this right for every child are collectively failing to improve learning, and this failure is deep, broad and with significant consequences for children. At the current rate, by 2030, of the 1.4 billion school-age children in low- and middle-income countries, 420 million will not learn the foundational skills in childhood.
  • UNICEF vision for education is that ‘every child learns’, which is articulated in the 2019-2030 Education Strategy across three inter-related goals: (i) equitable access to learning opportunities; (ii) improved learning and skills for all; (iii) improved learning and protection for children in emergencies and transitions. In developing this strategy, UNICEF staff, government counterparts and partners identified the development of foundational skills (pre-primary and primary education), as a thematic area where UNICEF should play a global/regional leadership role.
  • The generation and use of learning assessment data and robust evidence at country level are key for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the Education Strategy and the UNICEF Strategic Plans. This is contribution that will be crucial in supporting education system strengthening and policy dialogue and decision-making at country level for advancing towards the SDG 4, in particular for the most vulnerable children.

Purpose of the post

  • OoR-Innocenti aims to strengthen its capacity to deliver the production and use of high-quality research on foundational learning. Under the supervision and guidance of Chief, Education Research, the post holder will support the implementation and expansion of the research on foundational learning (pre-primary and primary education), provide technical guidance and support to UNICEF field offices and Governments and ensure dissemination and use at country level of research and learning assessment data for equitable and effective education sector policies and plans.
  • The post-holder will work with colleagues in OoR-Innocenti, Headquarters, Regional and Country offices, as well as other parts of UNICEF, to build on existing research activities and to develop new ones. The role will also involve fostering the development of partnerships and mobilizing resources for the generation of research and data (including from the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics and other learning assessment programmes) and their utilization by decision and policy makers at country level.

The position will report to the Chief, Education Research, Office of Research - Innocenti, Florence Italy (P-5, #89262)

Key functions, accountabilities and related duties/tasks

Research and its use 

  •  Support the implementation of research on foundational learning (pre-primary and primary education), including through enhanced analysis of learning assessment data (e.g. from the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics and other learning assessment programmes).
  •  Support the generation and use of pre-primary education evidence at country level to inform the operationalization of UNICEF’s commitment to spend at least 10 per cent of education financing on pre-primary education.
  •  Contribute in the development of proposals and mobilize resources to support foundational learning research and its use at country level; maintain and strengthen donor networks through routine communications and reporting; and ensure donor contributions are well managed, donor expectations are met and donor reports are completed with high quality and on time.
  •  Implement quantitative and qualitative methodologies for research -including but not limited to evidence synthesis, implementation research, behavioral science impact evaluation; deliver rigorous research in a timely and efficient manner, and ensure the use of their findings at country level.
  •  Manage consultants to deliver research outputs, including through quality assurance of concept notes, deliverables, and proposals.
  •  Maintain close relationship with UNICEF HQ, Regional and Country Offices, including through the UNICEF Global Task Teams on Early Childhood Education and on Foundational Learning.

Technical guidance and support (25%)

  • Provide guidance and quality assurance on foundational learning (pre-primary and primary education) research design and on the use of learning assessment data (e.g. from the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics and other learning assessment programmes) to Ministries of Education and UNICEF field offices.
  • Strengthen the research capacity of UNICEF field Offices and Ministries of Education for co-creation design of research in foundational learning.
  • Help strengthen and support the use of research and evaluation findings for policy dialogue and foundational learning system strengthening at country level.
  • Support, collaborate in or coordinate research initiated or requested by UNICEF Country and Regional Offices or HQ according to agreed organizational priorities.

Resource Mobilization, Knowledge exchange and Partnerships 

  •  Identify and curate lists of relevant funding opportunities for research on foundational learning (pre-primary and primary education) and on the use of learning assessment data.
  •  Establish and maintain partnerships with networks of researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and donors to timely identify fundraising windows and global/regional/country priorities.
  •  Contribute to the dissemination and exchange of research findings and related policy recommendations and best practices related to foundational learning (pre-primary and primary education).
  •  Synthetize and organize materials and contribute to the relevant sections of the OoR and other UNICEF offices’ websites.
  •  Prepare inputs and participate in relevant conferences, workshops and meetings, including through effective dissemination of key research outcomes for effective use at country level.

 Contribution to the Office of Research work programme and support to the cross-cutting research agenda (5%)

  •  Contribute to the overall research activities of the Office and to the use of their findings by policy and decision makers at country level.
  •  Participate in and/facilitate interdisciplinary research through involvement in selected cross functional teams and consultations, including Annual Results report and participation in office seminars.
  •  Contribute in the development on joint proposals and contribute to fundraising for research and evidence.
  •  Act as a resource person for key UNICEF meetings and advocacy activities as requested by the manager.

Impact of Results

  • Evidence is used to inform Government’s and UNICEF’s education sector policies and programmes. The post holder will ensure that research findings on education systems and foundational learning are reliable and can be used to inform the achievement of UNICEF and UN mandates related to child rights in all settings.
  • The incumbent will contribute to expanding the evidence base around the design of effective education systems and foundational learning programmes. This rigorous evidence will inform governments and the international community in general, on how to strengthen education systems and improve the delivery of quality learning for the realization of child rights in all settings, thereby maximizing investment choices.

Recruitment Qualifications


  • Advanced university degree in education, economics, social policy or other social sciences.


  • A minimum of five years of progressively responsible professional work experience at national or international levels in research in education, with low/middle-income country level experience essential;
  • Demonstrated experience and knowledge of pre-primary and primary education policies and systems;
  • Demonstrated experience and knowledge of learning assessment data and of their use for policy dialogue and education system management;
  • Demonstrated experience in fundraising and resource mobilization;
  • Experience in behavioral and scaling science, and/or implementation science an asset;
  • Demonstrated ability to work well as part of a team and to forge and manage partnerships;
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills;
  • Commitment to UNICEF’s core values of care, respect, integrity, transparency and accountability;
  • Ability to work in a multicultural, multi-ethnic environment. Experience working in the UN or other international development organization an asset.

Language Requirements:

  • Fluency in English required; Fluency in another UN Language an asset.


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