The ‘Learning at Scale’ Advisory Group – Member Biographies


October 08, 2019

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Amy Jo Dowd, Independent

Amy Jo Dowd is an independent consultant and a graduate of Stanford (MA) and Harvard’s (MEd, EdD) Graduate Schools of Education. She is passionate about using rigorous research to improve practice in international education and child development programs. She previously built and led a team of 11 researchers at Save the Children to support evidence generation across the globe to ensure all children learn essential skills. She led the development and field-testing of Literacy Boost, an evidence-driven system for improving children’s learning and equity inside schools and outside of their walls, now implemented in more than three dozen country sites by both Save the Children and World Vision. Literacy Boost transformed the way that Save the Children uses data to support children to reach their potential and building from it Dr. Dowd worked with colleagues to develop, test and scale numeracy and preschool interventions as well as the International Development and Early Learning Assessment

Edward Davis, Global Partnership for Education

Edward Davis has worked in education for 20 years as a teacher, school leader, administrator, consultant and DFID Senior Education Adviser and GPE Senior Thematic Lead. He spent eight years in secondary schools and local government administration in England before taking up senior education roles with the Education Development Trust for the Government of Abu Dhabi leading national school effectiveness reform and the Government of Montserrat leading sectoral planning and reform as well as short term assignments in Afghanistan for the Aga Khan Foundation focussed on improving school effectiveness. In 2012 Edward joined DFID as Education Adviser in Sierra Leone and led in the DFID Education Policy Team in London on teachers and teaching, among other policy areas, before joining DFID Pakistan as Education Policy Team Leader and Senior Education Adviser. In April this year he joined the GPE to lead on teachers and teaching. Having studied at the Universities of Newcastle; York; King’s College University of London and the UCL Institute of Education; Edward has also taught on programmes at the London School of Economics and UCL Institute of Education. 

Dr. Nic Spaull, Funda Wanda / RESEp

Dr. Nic Spaull is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Research on Socioeconomic Policy (RESEP) group at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Nic has a PhD in economics and has published numerous journal articles on education focusing on assessment, accountability, literacy and education policy in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. He advises numerous NGO's, policy-makers and grant-making bodies, and also regularly updates his website ( with new research and articles he finds interesting. 

Dr. Sara Ruto, PAL Network

Sara Ruto is the Chief Executive Officer of the People’s Action for Learning (PAL) network. This network comprises civil society organizations that conduct citizen led assessments and actions to improve learning outcomes in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In addition, under ziziAfrique, she is leading a program that uses Pratham’s Combined Activities for Maximised Learning to accelerate learning for children without the prerequisite skills in literacy and numeracy in Kenya. Prior to serving in these positions, Sara initiated the citizen led process in Kenya in 2009 that currently operates as Uwezo and managed the Uwezo East Africa learning assessment. She sits in several committees, such as Global Education Monitoring Report, World Bank’s Global Education Policy Dashboard and INCLUDE Knowledge Platform. Sara is the current Chair of the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development. She is a graduate from Kenyatta University Kenya and Heidelberg University, Germany.

Stephen Taylor, Department for Basic Education, South Africa

Stephen Taylor is the Director of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation in the South African Government Department of Basic Education.  Since 2007 he has been doing research on education in South Africa and the surrounding region, with a focus on the links between education and economic development. He has been a Principal Investigator on several large-scale evaluations, including the Early Grade Reading Study. He serves on the National Evaluation Technical Working Group, which provides guidance to the South African government’s National Evaluation System. His academic work focuses on impact evaluation of education interventions, measuring educational performance and equity in educational outcomes.

Moussa Blimpo, World Bank

Moussa P. Blimpo is a Senior Economist in the Office of the Chief Economist for the Africa Region (AFRCE) at the World Bank. Before this position, he was an Assistant Professor of economics and international studies at the University of Oklahoma. His research interest covers on a range of policy-relevant questions on African economies. His recent research and publications cover the issues on electricity access in Sub-Sharan Africa, the role of disruptive technologies on the prospects of Africa economies to leapfrog and address key development challenges, and the economics of education and human capital acquisition in African countries. Moussa holds a Ph.D. in economics from New York University and spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University’s Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR). He founded, and led between 2011 and 2015, the Center for Research and Opinion Polls (CROP), a think tank based in Togo.

Laura Savage, Department for International Development

Laura Savage is a Senior Education Adviser at the UK’s Department for International Development. She is currently Team Leader of the Education Research Team, working to generate rigorous research on questions of how to improve learning outcomes for all children. In particular, Laura works on RISE – an outstanding research programme generating new thinking and robust evidence on improving systems of education – and DFID’s education partnership with the UK Economic and Social Research Council. Laura has lived and worked in Malaysia, Bangladesh and Malawi and has previously worked for a range of global education organisations including UNICEF and Australia’s DFAT. Laura holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge on the politics of aid in national education reform. 

Moses Oketch, UCL

Moses Oketch is Professor of international education policy and development at the University College London (UCL) Institute of Education. He is also a Director of the Centre for Education and International Development (CEID). His research focuses on the connection between the theory of human capital and implementation of policies in the areas of economics of education, education policy analysis, and impact evaluation. Previously he worked at Vanderbilt University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and in 2012 was a Visiting Professor at University of Pennsylvania. He has also contributed to and supported research capacity strengthening in Africa through his involvement with African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC) as a Senior Research Scientist and Director of Research. He received his PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign focusing on economics of education.

Alex Eble, Columbia

Alex Eble is an Assistant Professor of Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. His research focuses on two core areas. In the first research area, he works to understand how children form beliefs about their own ability, and how this affects their human capital development. In the second research area, he works to identify, evaluate, and study the scalability and generalizability of potentially high-leverage policy options to raise learning levels in the developing world. His work draws on insights from fieldwork and experience as a development practitioner in China, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, and India. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Brown University, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow; an MSc in Development Studies from the London School of Economics; and a BA in economics and East Asian languages and cultures from Indiana University, Bloomington, where he learned to read, write, and speak Mandarin Chinese.

Amel Karboul, Education Outcomes Fund

H.E Dr Amel Karboul is an entrepreneur, chairwoman, TED speaker, trusted transformation advisor and social innovator. She is passionate about nurturing a new generation of responsible leaders and building bridges between the private, public sector and civil society to solve today’s global challenges. Dr. Karboul serves as CEO of the Education Outcomes Fund for Africa and the Middle East and as a member of the Global Tech Panel that brings together leaders from the tech industry, the world of investment, and civil society with the aim to foster new types of cooperation between diplomacy and technology. Previously, she was Minister of Tourism in the Tunisian transition government that was appointed after the successful quartet negotiations (Nobel Peace Prize Winners 2015) and nominated as one of ten leading young African politicians. She holds a Master’s with honors in Mechanical Engineering, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany and a Doctorate in Coaching and Mentoring, Oxford Brookes University, UK. 

Asyia Kazmi, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Asyia Kazmi is the Global Education Policy Lead at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Asyia’s 25-year career in education began as a mathematics teacher in the UK. Before joining the Gates Foundation, Asyia was in PwC leading the Girls’ Education Challenge, a £800m fund set up by the UK’s Department for International Development to support the education of 1.5 million girls in 17 countries. Asyia has worked in three UK Government departments: as a senior education adviser in DFID stationed in Pakistan, a senior Her Majesty’s Inspector in Ofsted and a project director in the Department for Education. Her areas of expertise include teaching, learning and assessment; school improvement; and large-scale programme management. Asyia has a Masters in Applied Mathematics from Imperial College London and a Doctorate in Education on teaching and learning mathematics from University College London.

John Floretta, J-PAL

John Floretta is the director of policy at J-PAL. He works with policymakers, researchers, and J-PAL regional offices to disseminate insights from randomized evaluations and translate evidence into action. John managed J-PAL's education sector during 2015-2018. He advises the Teaching at the Right Level Africa team on its efforts to scale the approach to over 3 million students in the next five years. He is on the executive committee of the Scale-Up Community of Practice and was on the advisory group for the Brookings Millions Learning Real-time Scaling Labs. John was deputy director of J-PAL South Asia during 2011-2015 where he helped run J-PAL’s largest regional office. He previously worked at the UN Development Program and UN World Food Program in China. He has a master of arts in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University with concentrations in development economics and human security.

Sarah Kabay, Innovations for Poverty Action

Dr. Sarah Kabay is the Program Director for Education at Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA). Her research focuses on early childhood and basic education. She is interested in school management, parent and community engagement, and the connections between early childhood and primary education. Dr. Kabay focuses on mixed methods research, aiming to integrate measurement work, qualitative interviews, and process evaluation into the implementation of randomized controlled trials. In addition to conducting research, Dr. Kabay supports IPA’s education policy work, and in particular, its partnerships with government education systems. She is a research affiliate of the Global TIES Research Center at New York University.              

Benjamin Piper, RTI International

Benjamin Piper is the Senior Director for Africa Education at RTI International. He supervises Kenya’s national literacy program, Tusome (“Let’s Read”) Early Grade Reading Activity (2014–2020) and led the expansion of Tusome to the Kakuma refugee camp (2017-2018) and Kenya’s Tayari Early Childhood Development and Education Programme (2014–2019). He is the Principal Investigator of the Learning @ Scale research program (2019-2021), that investigates highly effective learning improvement interventions in low and middle-income countries. Dr. Piper previously led Tusome, the Primary Math and Reading (PRIMR) Initiative, the National Tablet Programme, and the PRIMR Rural Expansion Programme in Kenya. His previous work investigated the impact of teacher guides on student outcomes and classroom practice in 18 projects in 13 countries, the effectiveness of an Ethiopian in-service teacher professional development program on teacher and student outcomes and teacher professional development in 22 projects in 15 countries. He has experience in program management, instructional leadership, pedagogical improvement, quantitative methods, policy analysis and assessment and has worked with RTI, the World Bank, DFID, UNICEF, and Save the Children.

Dr. Matthew Jukes, RTI International

Dr. Matthew Jukes is a Fellow and education evaluation specialist at RTI International with 20 years of experience as a researcher in international education and child development. He conducts research on the cultural context of social emotional learning and effective pedagogy, evidence-based decision-making in education, and reading proficiency benchmarks. Dr. Jukes came to RTI from Room to Read, where he was Senior Director of Global Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation Strategy. Prior to joining Room to Read in 2012, he was an Associate Professor of International Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he taught courses on evidence-based decision-making and the roles of both culture and health in effective education. He has also applied his research to work with the World Bank, UNAIDS, UNESCO, Save the Children, UNICEF, and DFID. He has conducted primary research in 10 countries in Africa and 9 in Asia and has experience as a classroom teacher in Gambia. He holds a doctorate in early childhood development and a bachelor’s degree in physics from Oxford University.

Dr. Jonathan Stern, RTI International

Jonathan Stern, PhD, is an expert in research and evaluation within RTI’s International Education division. He has over 15 years of experience in educational measurement and assessment, quantitative methods, research design, and program monitoring and evaluation. Dr. Stern has provided technical expertise and assistance to education programs in more than twenty countries throughout his career, with an explicit focus on training and capacity building for project staff, ministry counterparts, and education stakeholders. Since joining RTI in 2014, Dr. Stern has worked extensively in the education assessment space, leading efforts in the development and validation of Group Administered Literacy and Mathematics Assessments, as well as contributing to research and innovations in standard setting and benchmarking for early grade reading. He has also regularly supported projects in strengthening their use of monitoring and evaluation data and applied research findings for evidence-based decision-making about program implementation.

CGD Members

Susannah Hares, Center for Global Development (Chair) 

Susannah Hares is a senior policy fellow and co-leads CGD’s global education work. Before joining CGD, she spent seven years as Ark’s international director, where she was responsible for strategy, operations, and programs in India, sub-Saharan Africa, and Eastern Europe, and for Ark’s international ventures including the Education Partnerships Group, Global Schools Forum, and Peepul. Hares started her career in Kenya, working for African health NGO AMREF. She has served on the boards and advisory groups of various international education organizations and ventures. She holds a MA (Econ) in political development from the University of Manchester.

Justin Sandefur, Center for Global Development

Justin Sandefur is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. Prior to joining CGD, he spent two years as an adviser to Tanzania's national statistics office and worked as a research officer at Oxford University's Centre for the Study of African Economies. His research focuses on a wide range of topics, including education, poverty reduction, legal reform, and democratic governance.

Rita Perakis, Center for Global Development

Rita Perakis is assistant director and senior policy analyst on CGD’s global education team. Previously she worked as a manager at Ark Education Partnerships Group where she was responsible for projects in Uganda and Cote d’Ivoire that focused on strengthening public private partnerships and accountability in education systems. She has worked on education, aid effectiveness and innovative finance at Social Finance UK and in previous roles in CGD’s DC and London offices. Perakis holds a BA from Emory University and MPA from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Jack Rossiter, Center for Global Development

Jack Rossiter is a senior policy analyst at the Center for Global Development. His research interests include the economics of education in developing countries, early learning, skills development, and educational assessment. Before joining CGD, he was involved in the delivery of Young Lives’ school effectiveness surveys, Early Learning Partnership systems research in Ethiopia, and also served for two years as a civil servant (ODI Fellow) in Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education. He holds master’s degrees in Civil Engineering and Economics.

Lee Crawfurd, Center for Global Development

Lee Crawfurd is a senior research associate with CGD’s global education team. Previously he was an economist and advisor with the Governments of Rwanda, South Sudan, and the UK. He has also worked as a consultant for international organisations and NGOs including the World Bank, AfDB, and ADB. He has a PhD in economics from the University of Sussex and has studied at the University of Oxford and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London.