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Dr. Dan Wagner is a Professor of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the UNESCO Chair in Learning and Literacy, Founding Director of the International Literacy Institute (ILI; co-founded by UNESCO and the University of Pennsylvania), Founding Director of the federally-funded National Center on Adult Literacy (NCAL), and Founding Director of Penn GSE’s International Educational Development master’s program. Dr. Wagner received his Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Michigan, was a two-year postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, a Visiting Fellow at the International Institute of Education Planning in Paris, a Visiting Professor at the University of Geneva (Switzerland), and a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Paris. He completed his undergraduate degree in Engineering at Cornell University and later served in the Peace Corps in Morocco.


Dr. Wagner has extensive experience in national and international educational issues, and has been an international development advisor to UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank, USAID, DFID, and others. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Anthropological Association, and the American Educational Research Association. Dr. Wagner has also served as Chair of the Brookings Global Research Task Force on Learning. He was the recipient of the 2014 UNESCO Confucius International Literacy Prize. In 2017, he was appointed Special Advisor on Literacy to the UNESCO Director-General. In 2021, he was elected Honorary Fellow of the Comparative and International Education Society.



"As someone who teaches and works with students of both “teacher education” and “development studies,” I could envision using this text as a foundational volume across my undergraduate and post-graduate courses."


"Wagner employs an impressive range of evidence, of scientific studies, international reports, and national and local evidence in reviewing approaches, to development, sectoral and institutional contexts."


"This authoritative account, including a foreword by the Director General of UNESCO, reflects Wagner’s significant research expertise and extensive practical experience in the arena of international development."


"His is a timely message and one with important implications for education development that supports life-long learning for individuals and communities around the world."


 "Wagner draws on a lifetime of UN-involved work across the globe, to situate his argument that international development, if it is to respect cultures and traditions, as well as limits to growth in a global society, must move beyond human economic capital to embrace human psychological capital at a deep level"

"Dan Wagner has thus written the first book in decades to present such a wide-ranging synthesis of learning in comparative and international contexts and as a key to progress.  Learning as Development is a landmark attempt to begin building a new vision for the international development education field."


Suzanne Grant Lewis, Former Director, IIEP-UNESCO

"Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals places a central emphasis on educational equity in its formulation: ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.’  Reflecting on the progress made since 2000, when the first UN goals were established and the Education for All goals reaffirmed, we see tremendous expansion in educational access. But we also can identify 

serious shortcomings in the effort to ensure quality education for all children."


This edited volume, Learning at the Bottom of the Pyramid: 

Science, measurement, and policy in low income countries

collects the rich debates from the international conference held in Philadelphia on 2–3 March 2017

These are matters of substantial concern to international 

agencies, foundations, policy makers, education specialists, and the public at large. The complexity of the issues and the diverse backgrounds of participants ensured that the analyses and debates captured here have breadth and variety. It is clear that in order to achieve both inclusion and equity in improving the quality of education, a better understanding of learning in low income societies should take a high priority."

For links to articles and chapters to to Penn Scholarly Commons
Learning as development Book Graphic

Wagner, D. A. (2018). Technology for education in low-income countries: Supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In: I. Lubin, ICT-Supported Innovations in Small Countries and Developing Regions: Perspectives and Recommendations for International Education. NY: Springer.

Castillo, N. & Wagner, D.A. (2019). Multilingual literacy transfer in rural South Africa: A technology-based impact study. International Review of Education, 65, 389-408.


Wagner, D. A., Wolf, S. & Boruch, R. F. (eds.) (2018). Learning at the bottom of the pyramid: Science, measurement, and policy in low-income countries. Paris: UNESCO-IIEP.

Wagner, D. A. (2018). Learning as development: Rethinking international education in a changing world. NY: Routledge.

Wagner, D. A. (2017). Technology for education in low-income countries: Supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In: I. Lubin, ICT-Supported Innovations in Small Countries and Developing Regions: Perspectives and Recommendations for International Education. NY: Springer.

Wagner, D. A. (2017). Children’s Reading in Low-Income Countries. The Reading Teacher, 71, (2), 127-133.

Wagner, D. A. (Ed.). (2015). Learning and education in developing countries: Research and policy for the post-2015 UN development goals. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wagner, D. A. (2015). Des évaluations simples, rapides et abordables: Améliorer l’apprentissage dans les pays en développement. Paris, France: UNESCO-IIEP.

Wagner, D. A., & Castillo, N. M. (2014). Learning at the bottom of the pyramid: Constraints, comparability and policy in developing countries. Prospects, (44), 627–638.

Wagner, D. A. (2014). Mobiles for reading: A landscape research review. Washington, DC: USAID. 

Wagner, D. A. (2011). What happened to literacy? Historical and conceptual perspectives on literacy in UNESCO. International Journal of Educational Development, 31, 319–323.

Wagner, D. A. (2011). Smaller, quicker, cheaper: Improving learning assessments in developing countries. International Institute for Educational Planning. Paris: UNESCO.

Wagner, D. A. (2010). Quality of education, comparability, and assessment choice in developing countries. COMPARE: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 40(6), 741–760.

Wagner, D. A. (2008). Global perspectives on the science of literacy and education. In M. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of cross-cultural developmental science. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.

Wagner, D. A., & Sweet, R. (Eds.). (2006). ICT and learning: Supporting out-of-school youth and adults. Paris, France: OECD/NCAL.

Wagner, D. A., & Kozma, R. (2005). New technologies for literacy and adult education: A global perspective. Paris, France: UNESCO. [English, French and Arabic].

Wagner, D. A. (Ed.). (2005). Monitoring and evaluation of ICT in education projects: A handbook for developing countries. Washington, D.C.: World Bank/InfoDev.

Wagner, D. A., Venezky, R. L., & Street, B. V. (Eds.). (1999). Literacy: An international handbook. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

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