Dr. James Williams

Dr. James Williams headshot

Dr. James Williams

Professor, International Education and International Affairs

School: Graduate School of Education and Human Development

Department: Cross-Disciplinary, Educational Leadership


Dr. James H. Williams is UNESCO Chair in International Education for Development and Professor of International Education & International Affairs at the George Washington University (GW). He serves as Director of the International Education Program and is on the faculty of GW’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development and Elliott School of International Affairs, where he teaches graduate classes on education and development; education policy in developing countries; education of marginalized communities; education in emergencies; and international/comparative education.

His research interests lie in three areas: policies to improve education in low and middle-income countries; the effects of education on conflict and social cohesion; and predictors of socio-economic gradients. He is currently working on a longitudinal study of dropout in Cambodia, a series of edited books on textbooks and national identity, a comparative case study of higher education for development and social cohesion in Sri Lanka and Malaysia; and a study of US development assistance.

In addition to GW, Dr. Williams has taught at Ohio University, Athens, and J.F. Oberlin University, Tokyo.

He has worked at USAID as a AAAS Fellow and served as Editor of The FORUM for Advancing Basic Education and Literacy at the Harvard Institute for International Development.

He has been a visiting scholar at the Graduate School of International Development, Nagoya University and at the Center for International Cooperation in Education at Hiroshima University; as well as an invited professor at Kobe University’s Graduate School of International Cooperation Studies.

Dr. Williams has consulted with a number of development agencies including UNICEF, UNU-WIDER, UNESCO, World Bank, FAO, UNHCR, FHI 360, Education Development Center, American Institutes of Research, Creative Associates International, working on development assistance in over 20 countries.

He has co-authored or co-edited four books and over 40 journal articles/book chapters and monographs and guest edited/co-edited special issues of journals on three occasions, and is on the inaugural editorial board of the Journal of Education in Emergencies. His most recent book, (Re)Constructing Memory: School Textbooks and the Imagination of the Nation, has recently been published by Sense Publishers.

Ed.D, Harvard University

Ed.M., Harvard University

M.S., Florida State University

B.A., College of Wooster

  • International, comparative and development education
  • Educational planning
  • Education reform  (policy and planning) in low and middle income countries
  • Pedagogy and instructional materials in low/middle income countries
  • Education in emergencies
  • Social and emotional learning
  • School social studies textbooks and national identity

Williams, J. H. (2014). (Re)constructing memory: School textbooks and the imagination of the nation . Rotterdam, NL: Sense Publishers.

Williams, J. H. , & Engel, L. C. (2013). Testing to rank, testing to learn, testing to improve: An introduction and overview. Research in Comparative and International Education , 8 (3): 213-235.

Engel, L. C., & Williams, J. H. (Eds.) (2013). The globalization of assessment: A forum on international tests of student performance. (Special issue) Research in Comparative and International Education , 8 (3).

Williams, J. H. (2013). U. S. foreign aid. In S. Yamada (Guest editor), Asian Education and Development Studies: The emergence of new donors and paradigm shifts in international educational aid: Exploring Asian uniqueness and diversity. Asian Education and Development Studies , 3 (1).

Williams, J. H. , Kitamura, Y., & Keng, C. S. (2013). Higher education in Cambodia: Expansion and quality improvement . RIHE Higher Education Forum.

Cummings, W. K., & Williams, J. H. (2013). A case study of Unicef education programs in Somalia . Helsinki: UNU-WIDER (World Institute on Development Economics Research).

Williams, J. H. , & Engel, Laura, C. (2012). How do other countries evaluate teachers? Phi Delta Kappan.

Williams, J. H. (guest editor) (2012). Youth, education, and work. (Special issue). Journal of International Cooperation in Education , 15 (2).

Williams, J. H. (2012). Education reform since 1900. In O. Patterson (Ed.), Cultural sociology of East and Southeast Asia . Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Williams, J. H. (2012). Identity, school textbooks, and rebuilding memory. In J. Banks (Ed.), Encyclopedia of diversity in education . Thousand Oaks, Sage.

Williams, J. H. , Kitamura, Y., & Zimmermann, T. (2012). Teacher education and privatization in Cambodia . (ESP Working Paper. Special Series in the Privatisation of Education Initiative 2012 No. 45.) London: Open Society Foundation, Privatisation in Education Research Initiative (PERI).

Williams, J. H. (2011). Education and reconstruction in post-conflict Liberia. Journal of International Cooperation Studies , 18 (3).

Ahmed, M., & Williams, J. H. (2010). Education priorities for human resource centered development in Bangladesh. In S. S. Andaleeb (Ed.), Development priorities for Bangladesh in the 21st century . Dhaka: University Press, Ltd.

Khaniya, T., & Williams, J. H. (2009). Necessary but not sufficient: Challenges to (implicit) theories of educational change: Reforms in Nepal’s primary education system. In P. Bhatta (Ed.), Education in Nepal: Problems, reforms and social change . Kathmandu: Martin Chautari.

Cummings. W. K., & Williams, J. H. (2008). Policy-making for education reform in developing countries: Volume II. Options and strategies . Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.

Takeda, N., & Williams, J. H. (2008). Pluralism, identity and the state: National education policy towards indigenous minorities in Japan and Canada. Comparative Education , 44 (1), 75-91.

Williams, J. H. (2007). Commentary. Journal of Bangladesh Studies , 9 (1), 17-20.

Williams, J. H. (Guest editor) (2007). Vulnerable, excluded invisible & ignored: the margins of education for all. (Special Issue). Journal of International Cooperation in Education , 10 (1), 1-158.

Williams, J. H. (2006). Secondary education in perspective. In M. Ahmed, S. R. Nath, A. Hossain, & M. A. Kalam (Eds.), The state of secondary education: Progress and challenges (Education Watch 2005, chap. 2, 12-29) Dhaka, Bangladesh: Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE).

  • January 2024Dr. Jim Williams and GSEHD doctoral candidate Sevinj Mammadova (Education Policy) were mentioned in the AzerNews article, "USACC holds conference on role of Azerbaijani community in Washington." Ms. Mammadova, who manages GSEHD's MA program in Education and Human Development at the Azerbaijan State Pedagogical University, moderated a panel about educational relations, and Dr. Williams spoke about educational programs between Azerbaijan and the United States. They were joined on the panel by Shiro Nakata, the World Bank's leading economist on education issues.