Senior Education Economist/Specialist

World Bank, Colombia, Colombia

Skill Required:, Education Management
Preferred Experience: 
7 to 10 Year
Closing Date for Applications: 
12th August, 2021

Job Description


  • Do you want to build a career that is truly worthwhile? Working at the World Bank Group provides a unique opportunity for you to help our clients solve their greatest development challenges. The World Bank Group is one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries; a unique global partnership of five institutions dedicated to ending extreme poverty, increasing shared prosperity and promoting sustainable development. With 189 member countries and more than 120 offices worldwide, we work with public and private sector partners, investing in groundbreaking projects and using data, research, and technology to develop solutions to the most urgent global challenges. 


  • Education is central to achieving the WBG’s twin goals: it is a reliable route out of poverty through large and consistent returns to income for individuals and as a driver for economic growth. It is also a prime vehicle for promoting shared prosperity. The main challenge in the education sector is to achieve “learning for all and learning for life”- that is, to ensure that all children and young people acquire the knowledge and skills they need for their lives and livelihoods. In the past two decades, the developing world has made great advances in education, most notably in enrolling and keeping children in school and in approaching gender equality. Despite these successes in expanding access to education, critical challenges remain: removing persistent educational barriers faced by the poorest people and those living in fragile and conflict-affected states and improving the quality of education so that schooling leads to real learning. In recent years, the WBG, and the broader education development community, have shifted their focus to include learning outcomes. Traditional input-driven programs have shown that they do not always lead to improved learning outcomes, so that the WBG’s education strategy highlights the need for a more comprehensive ‘systems approach’ to education reform, investments, and service delivery. This approach is about increasing accountability and targeting results, as a complement to providing inputs. It also requires strengthening the knowledge base on education, to highlight where systems are achieving results, where they are falling short, and what the most effective solutions are. These efforts are increasingly guided by the need to invest early; invest smartly; and invest for all. Through high-quality analytical work, collection of evidence, and practical know-how in these three areas, the WBG is helping its partner countries accelerate their progress in the education sector.
  • The Education Global Practice is led by a Global Director, who has overall responsibility for the practice, together with Regional Directors who oversee the human development program in the regions working with ten Practice Managers.


  • The World Bank Group serves over 30 client countries in the Latin America and the Caribbean Region (LCR). Clients range from large sophisticated middle-income clients (MIC) to IDA countries to small Caribbean states to one fragile state. After a decade of sound economic management with solid social progress, Latin America has reached a development crossroads. With slower growth prospects and the threat in the reversal of fortunes for many, the region now faces new challenges, and improving productivity is now increasingly emerging as a key underlying factor to address them. Progress on this front will be critical for higher growth and to ensure that the social gains amassed over the economic boom of the past decade – one that expanded the middle class to more than one third of the entire population and lifted 80 million people out of poverty- are not eroded. Moreover, Latin America’s inequality continues to be high compared to other world regions; and the recent COVID-19 crisis has had a tremendous toll on the region, with the GDP expected to have decreased by about 7% in 2020.

High quality education for all is central in the pursuit of growth and equity. The Education Unit for LCR works with client countries – at the regional, sub-regional, national and sub-national levels – to address key education challenges. To cite some of the key challenges:

  • learning outcomes have tended to improve, but LCR is still facing a Learning Crisis – with a learning poverty of about 50% and on average, 15-year-old students three years behind in reading, mathematics, and science when compared to a student in an OECD country; (b) learning gaps between students from better-off and most disadvantaged backgrounds are very large; (c) enrollment has continued to increase in secondary education but completion remains a regional challenge, especially among the poorest; and (d) the supply of higher education has increased significantly, but relevance and inclusiveness are still important challenges. These challenges have by now been strongly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a profound impact on Latin America. Initial simulations estimate that the region would be faced with the second largest expected absolute increase in Learning Poverty levels with an increase up to 62.5%, and all other metrics, in primary, secondary and tertiary education, are evolving in very worrisome ways, especially for the most vulnerable children and youth (with a socio-economic gap in education achievement estimated to increase by at least 12%). We are notably also expecting large increases in dropouts.
  • To address these challenges and their underlying constraints, the unit’s education strategy centers on four key pillars: (a) investing in Early Childhood Education/Development; (b) measuring and improving teaching and learning; (c) addressing drop-outs and improving the skills of secondary and tertiary-school age youth; and (d) pursuing best practices in governance, management and financing. This also includes the effective use of ICT and learning spaces and a strong focus on inclusion. These pillars are consistent with the global education practice approach and the focus on learning poverty, as well as with the main strategic intervention areas to help countries cope and recover from the impact of COVID-19 on the education sector. These areas of intervention are focused on: (i) enhancing the reach, use and effectiveness of technology in education; (ii) pedagogical and management reforms for recovery and resilience; (iii) safe and resilient schools; and (iv) skills for the post-COVID context. It is expected that the focus of FY22 will largely be on helping LAC countries recover from the COVID-19 crisis on their education sector.
  • To implement its strategy, the unit has a large program comprising analytical and advisory (ASA) services as well as lending operations. It currently has a well-performing portfolio of 23 operations across most countries of the region. The portfolio has increasingly used new lending instruments to support systemic reforms (including Investment Project Financing (IPF) with Performance Based Conditions, and the two first ever Programs for Results (PforR) in education in LCR in Brazil and Argentina). The unit has a strong emphasis on bringing the best global evidence to inform its products and services for its clients, and in working strategically with clients to generate knowledge where the knowledge base is still nascent. lt produces innovative and programmatic ASA work, with analytical and just-in-time components, which is highly valued by our MIC clients, while also including a strong program of impact evaluations embedded in client engagements (operations or ASA). The unit also prides itself in its thought leadership through the preparation of rigorous regional studies to shed light on policy relevant issues in the region (teachers, school dropout, higher education, system and school management for example). We also stepped-up opportunities to share our work with the rest of the Bank through the new Tuesday Talks and several BBLs and webinars, and, more recently, our monthly COVID-19 dashboards.
  • More specifically, the unit has a large program of services to support improvements in the quality, relevance and equity of ECE, basic, secondary and tertiary education. This includes several operational and analytical projects and tasks that seek to support clients in the implementation of programs and policies to improve the quality and management of teachers and school leaders, measure learning outcomes and use the information from these assessments to improve quality, reduce drop outs, particularly at secondary school, and provide high quality teaching and curriculums to build the range of foundational, higher level cognitive or technical as well as socioemotional skills that are required for successful and productive citizens, use technological solutions for education and smart learning environments, and strengthen school based and education system management and accountability.
  • These areas of intervention have positioned the unit very well to support countries to address the COVID-19 crisis, translating into comprehensive just-in time advisory support, re-purposed ASAs, projects’ restructurings and new operations (among others, in Haiti, Nicaragua, Guyana, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil) to support the design and implementation of comprehensive sector response plans, innovations in multi-modal and hybrid teaching and learning, and more broadly the coping, managing continuity and building back better phases of the COVID-19 response. Moving forward, we have several new projects in the pipeline, including in Uruguay, Colombia, Peru and Brazil, with a strong focus on recovering from the pandemic, and there is potential to do much more.
  • More specifically in Colombia, we have a very comprehensive engagement articulated around 4 key pillars: (a) a solid and long-standing engagement in higher education, currently implemented through a project under supervision; (b) an outstanding analytical and technical agenda through cutting-edge ASA; (c) a Reimbursable Assistance (RAS) engagement both at the national and sub-national level; and (d) the on-going preparation of a new education project in basic education. The higher education project under supervision – the Access and Quality in Higher Education Project – PACES – aims at improving the quality of tertiary education in participating institutions and to increase the enrollment of students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds in quality programs. The project, which is performing satisfactorily and still has over two years of implementation, supports an innovative student loan program. The ASA and RAS agenda has focused on several topics, from management and governance reforms, to socio-emotional skills, school feeding, evaluating promising new programs, just-in-time policy notes and the development of an innovative education management and information system (the Monitor Escolar) which can collect real-time data, among other elements, on schools’ and students’ conditions. The RAS program has been a flagship in Latin America for its duration, level of government engagement and quality. As Colombia and the team have been ramping up their response to COVID-19, this has laid the ground for the preparation of a Program for Results operation which focuses on the recovery from the devastating impacts of the crisis. The program has three results areas: (i) evaluation of learning outcomes; (ii) pedagogical support for teachers to strengthen basic competencies of students in basic education; and (iii) supporting local government in implementing remedial programs, socioemotional skills programs and drop-out prevention programs through the implementation of full day schools. Both the pedagogical support and the support to local governments are targeted to the most disadvantaged children, schools and local governments. The work in Colombia also entails significant contributions to cross-sectorial studies and operations – Systematic Country Diagnostics (SCDs), Flagships, Development Program Financings (DPFs), etc. The Colombia Country Management Unit (CMU) also includes Mexico and Venezuela. The staff located in Colombia will be expected to also support as needed the education sector engagement in Venezuela.
  • In light of the above, the unit is seeking a Senior Education Specialist/Economist, based in Colombia, to lead and/or co-lead the education policy dialogue, portfolio and ASA/RAS engagement in Colombia, and lead the engagement in Venezuela. The selected candidate will report to the Practice Manager for the LCR education unit (HCLED) and is expected to work in close collaboration with the CMU, the other members of the education and Human Development team, and colleagues in other Global Practices (GPs) based in Colombia.

Duties and Accountabilities:

The Sr. Economist/Education Specialist based in Colombia is expected to:

  •  Lead and/or co-lead the education policy dialogue in Colombia, continuing to explore new opportunities for strategic, operational, RAS and analytical engagement, with a strong focus on recovering from the COVID-19 crisis and building back better. Forge strong partnerships with other partners and strategic stakeholders to carry the dialogue forward.
  •  Lead and/or co-lead the preparation and supervision of the education portfolio at various education levels (which, so far, includes an IPF and a PforR)
  •  Lead and/or co-lead high quality customized analytical and advisory services, including the RAS program, analytical reports, impact evaluations, and just-in time TA, in several areas. EMIS, education sector financing and management, strategies for teacher mentoring, remedial education, socio-emotional skills and to address dropouts, and higher education, are all areas in high demand both in our advisory and operational engagement. Providing guidance on innovative and cutting-edge strategies and approaches to effectively respond to the COVID crisis on education will be critical.
  •  Contribute to the CMU and other GPs led cross-sectorial tasks (SCD, Flagships, DPFs, etc)
  •  Lead the education engagement in Venezuela (largely through cross-sectorial work)
  •  Mentor and advise more junior staff and consultants in operational and analytical roles
  •  Serve, as needed, as focal point in critical areas for the unit (and the GP).

Selection Criteria

  • The ideal candidate will combine excellent client dialogue and team management skills, outstanding technical skills and a capacity to translate analytical findings into policy and innovative Bank operations to help clients recover from the pandemic, shift policies in new directions and/or pilot new approaches, and strong operational skills to provide effective leadership and/or implementation support to the education portfolio.

The candidate should have:

  •  Advanced degree (Master’s or PhD) in economics, education, business or related fields Experience:
  •  A minimum of 8 years directly relevant work experience in education; and demonstrated expert-level knowledge of education policy.
  •  Excellent client skills and sustained track record of leading policy dialogue and developing business in education in middle-income countries.
  •  Outstanding technical skills, and in-depth knowledge in at least some of the key education sector areas mentioned above would be a plus. Ability to translate analytical/technical skills and products into new programs, policies, and operational innovations and results.
  •  Excellent operational skills to be able to effectively lead or co-lead operations and teams through all the stages of project preparation and supervision
  •  Proven track-record of leading and/or working well with teams
  •  Track record of delivering high impact operations/interventions across education levels based on solid evidence
  •  Track record of delivering high quality analytical and advisory services
  •  Solid experience working with development partners
  •  Fluency in English and Spanish.


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