Five Questions with Alumna Yidan Wang of the World Bank Group

Yidan Wang is a senior education specialist with the World Bank Group.  She serves on the Board of Visitors of the Pitt School of Education and is an alumna of the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh.

To commemorate the 2019 United Nations Day on October 24, 2019, Pitt Education caught up with Wang for a brief interview. The interview has been slightly edited.

1. How would you describe your job, as a Senior Education Specialist, at the World Bank Group?

As a Senior Education Specialist at the World Bank Group, I am leading the education staff development program. In this position, I am pioneering, designing, managing, and delivering various knowledge sharing and capacity building programs for World Bank education staff, development agencies, and policymakers and practitioners. This job enables me to get access to and integrate cutting-edge knowledge and best practices around the world into state-of-the-art education and technical skills learning programs. This enables education professionals to progress towards the sustainable development goals. (SDGs).

2. Working for an arm of the United Nations, how did your School of Education program (International Education) help to prepare you for a heavy international focus?

I entered the Pitt with a clear goal: helping children in developing countries to achieve their potential. Pitt’s international and development education provided me with the knowledge on international education and the practical experiences on education development. I was fortunate to have participated in an USAID project while I was studying. As soon as I earned my PhD, I participated in the UNICEF mission with other professors to Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Asian Development Project in Kyrgyzstan. Subsequently, I worked in development agencies – the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank Group. My work enables me to travel and work in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and North America, and the Middle East.

3. You team is working to help 80 countries reach United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, which calls for “access to quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030.” What do you think is the biggest challenge in getting to SDG 4 and the biggest opportunity?

The World Bank supports countries to achieve SDG 4, which is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”  For many countries, this is an ambitious goal.  Most of them have made significant progress in increasing enrollment, but the quality of education is low. The challenge is particularly acute in the lowest income countries. The goal can only be achieved by involving all actors in the educational system, including teachers, principals, the local and central ministries, and many others. The Graduate School of Education is critical to prepare teachers with the pedagogies and skills to make sure each and every child learns even in the most disadvantaged areas.

4. What was your favorite thing or a favorite memory from your time at Pitt?

I was very lucky to have knowledgeable and experienced professors as my advisor and mentors, including Prof. Donald Adams, Seth Spaulding, John Yeager, Sean Hughes, Maureen McClure, and more. Taking their classes and traveling and working with them were great experiences for me. The relationships we built while working together extended into our personal lives. When I was away from my home country, my family and I were made to feel very welcome in their homes during many holidays.

5. What is your one piece of advice for students looking to go into international education?

Get yourself ready for the world of work. This include knowledge as well as work experiences, such as obtaining working experiences and building professional and social networks.