2020 Entrepreneur in Residence

Christopher Thomas

Christopher J. Thomas, PhD ’96, has spent the past 25 years traveling to some of the poorest countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, working to improve educational systems from preschool to higher ed. He volunteered in West Africa with the Peace Corps after college, then went back to graduate school before taking a job with the World Bank, where he’s worked ever since.

He’s overseen a multitude of education and social welfare programs over the years. In Pakistan he supported an initiative that dramatically expanded girls’ access to schooling, more than doubling enrollment and completion in just six years. In Vietnam, he helped the government establish school quality standards and new teacher preparation programs after the first-ever national math and reading assessment revealed stark discrepancies between rural and urban students.

More recently, he’s become interested in programs to support disability inclusion in developing countries. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted by the United Nations in 2006, is opening up dialogue on policy in ministries of education around the world, he says. “It’s an exciting time, and an opportunity to help school systems—and ultimately societies—become more inclusive.”

“Point yourself in a general direction and start doing things you care about”

As this year’s social entrepreneur in residence at the GSE, he is helping to demystify the players and possibilities in global education work. “It can be a bit bewildering. It’s hard to understand the ecosystem and find your place in it,” he says. “And when you’re in it, there are a lot of competing pressures on you.” His advice to students starting out? “Point yourself in a general direction and start doing things you care about. That’s where you’re likely to succeed.”

Portrait photo of Christopher Thomas at the David Rumsey map center
  • Christopher Thomas with woman
  • Christopher Thomas on a construction site

Courses & Seminars

International Education Policy Workshop

This is a project-based workshop. Practical introduction to issues in educational policy making, education reform, educational planning, implementation of policy interventions, and monitoring and evaluation in developing country contexts. Preference to students enrolled in ICE/IEAPA, but open to other students interested in international development or comparative public policy with instructor's consent. Attendance at first class required for enrollment.

View on Explore Courses

EDUC 102I


Articles & Research

How can education be the antidote to a world prone to fracture along environmental, social, and economic fault lines?

| Christopher Thomas
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The ‘right to education’ needs to be considered in light of access to technology

| Christopher Thomas

Promoting a better world through the transformative power of education

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Education around the world

| Christopher Thomas

Christopher J. Thomas explains why education in the developing world matters for everyone.

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Building a better world through education: 6 big ideas

| Christopher Thomas

In an article for Brookings, Christopher Thomas discusses 6 big ideas for building a better world through education.

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Inclusive schools build inclusive societies

| Christopher Thomas

Judith Heumann had a sinking feeling when she realized that the world saw her differently: “I was a butterfly, becoming a caterpillar.”Neighborhood children asked if she was sick.

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Disability rights activist Judith Heumann says schools can be key vehicles for inclusion

| Christopher Thomas

Disability rights activist Judith Heumann said during a recent talk with students at Stanford Graduate School of Education that schools can be key vehicles for helping students with all abilities thrive and live full lives.

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The case for more international cooperation in education

| Christopher Thomas

Much of the world’s population was desperate and disoriented during the first half of the 20th century. A pandemic, economic depression, world wars, and colonial repression left people yearning for a new order and moral compass.

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Improving school systems in the poorest countries

| Christopher Thomas

Interview with Christopher Thomas about his history, work experience and current role at the Stanford GSE.

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Coronavirus and challenging times for education in developing countries

| Christopher Thomas

With few exceptions, schools are now closed countrywide across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, putting additional stress on education systems in developing countries, many of which are struggling to provide quality education for all.

What considerations do disruption on this scale raise? Are there ways to mitigate the effects of protracted school closures?

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Modern Education: Chris Thomas Advisor to the Education Global Practice at the World Bank

| Christopher Thomas

Modern Education podcast interview with Christopher Thomas about his work at the World Bank.

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