James Williams

James Williams
Professor, International Education & International Affairs

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.

EdFix Podcast - Episode 13: International Education, Globally Speaking "Global education” builds cultural competencies, encourages the exchange of ideas and people, and develops human capital. Could the policies and practices of other countries shed light on ways to improve our own schools and colleges, especially in the neediest communities? Drs. James Williams and Laura Engel discuss lessons learned from abroad, how the U.S. is faring compared to other countries, and whether the rise of nationalism is leading to the end of the golden age of internationalization in education.
Ed.D, Harvard University
Ed.M, Harvard University
M.S., Florida State University
B.A., College of Wooster


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. www.wwwords.co.uk/rcie/content/pdfs/8/issue8_3.asp (accessed 30 Sept 2013).

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). www.wwwords.co.uk/rcie/content/pdfs/8/issue8_3.asp (accessed 30 Sept 2013).

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

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).

In the News

Dr. James Williams recently spent a year on sabbatical leave in Thailand and Japan. He traveled to Thailand with a Fulbright Fellowship at the Research Center for Higher Education and Development (RIHED) of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), where he interviewed officials from 20 universities in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam about opportunities and barriers to Southeast Asian regional internationalization efforts in higher education. In Japan, a fellowship with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science supported research at the University of Tokyo in collaboration with UNESCO/Bangkok on indicators of internationalization of higher education in the Asia/Pacific region. Both research efforts continued during the final three months at Sophia University, Tokyo, where he also explored opportunities to build on existing collaboration between GW and Sophia.

Dr. Jim Williams was interviewed on the weekly podcast FreshEd with Will Brehm. Listen to the interview: Memory, power, and identity inside textbooks.

Dr. Jim Williams spoke at the UNESCO conference in Delhi, India entitled Preventing Violent Extremism through Education. Take Action. The conference was co-organized by UNESCO Headquarters and the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development.

Dr. James Williams' book (Re)Constructing Memory: Textbooks, Identity, Nation, and State was just published. His book engages readers in thirteen conversations presented by authors from around the world regarding the role that textbooks play in helping readers imagine membership in the nation.

Congratulations to Dr. James Williams, whose Fulbright application to Southeast Asia was selected!