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Volume 24, No. 1-2 Spring 2001

Spotlight on International Education

by Bridgette Devaney, ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics

An international education policy initiative first announced last year continued to gain momentum in 2001 with the introduction of a concurrent resolution in the U.S. Senate in February. The bipartisan resolution, sponsored by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), expresses "the sense of the Congress that the United States should establish an international education policy to enhance national security and significantly further United States foreign policy and global competitiveness, and for other purposes" (S. Con. Res. 7). The resolution urges the United States to develop a policy that will promote international exchange, increase the number of U.S. students who study abroad, and ensure that college graduates know a second language and have knowledge about a world area, among other objectives. In a floor statement to the Senate, Lugar said, "Success in promoting international education programs today and in the future will help promote democratic values and international cooperation. They can serve to reduce poverty and injustice and promote new leaders and new leadership skills in the U.S. and abroad that are essential to a better world" (2001). The resolution is being co-sponsored by Bob Graham (D-FL), Jesse Helms (R-NC), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Zell Miller (D-GA), Harry Reid (D-NV), and Paul Wellstone (D-MN).

International education drew the attention of policy makers last year after a presidential memorandum was issued that charged the Departments of Education and State to work with interested organizations to develop proposals in 10 core areas(Memorandum, 2000):

1. Increasing the number and diversity of students who study or intern abroad.

2. Attracting qualified foreign students to the United States.

3. Addressing the removal of obstacles to the exchange of students, scholars, and professionals.

4. Supporting the development of international awareness and skills, including second language learning at all levels and the teaching and learning of English abroad.

5. Coordinating and supporting government-sponsored exchange programs.

6. Developing comparative information on educational practices and sharing U.S. expertise with other countries.

7. Strengthening and expanding cross-national academic partnerships.

8. Building international expertise in U.S. institutions to make international education an integral part of undergraduate, graduate, and professional education.

9. Promoting the wise use of technology to expand international education.

10. Ensuring that results are measured and reported in conformance with government standards.

The Departments of Education and State cooperated with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and educational and non-governmental organizations to develop proposals for strengthening international education. The result of their collaboration can be found in the discussion paper, "Strengthening the U.S. Government's Leadership in Promoting International Education" (U.S. Department of Education, 2000a) released last November. It defines international education broadly to include study and research abroad by U.S. citizens, as well as study and research in the United States by scholars and students from other countries; learning about other countries and cultures in U.S. schools, as well as sharing U.S. knowledge and culture with other countries; foreign language learning by U.S. citizens, as well as the teaching of English abroad; and learning about foreign educational practices that could improve education at home and sharing U.S. expertise abroad. The paper aims to stimulate discussion about how the federal government, in partnership with interested organizations and the private sector, can promote and increase investment in international education. The proposals outlined in the paper respond to each of the 10 directives of the executive memorandum. While all of the proposals are of interest, the most relevant for foreign language and ESL/EFL educators are those in directive four, which comprises four sub-goals: promoting foreign language learning at all levels, including efforts to achieve bi-literacy; helping teachers acquire skills to understand and interpret countries and cultures for their students; increasing opportunities for the exchange of faculty, administrators, and students; and strengthening English instruction abroad.

Some of the organizations that collaborated with the Departments of Education and State to develop proposals in this area include the following: the ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics, the Goethe Institute, the Joint National Committee for Languages, the National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education, the National Foreign Language Center, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, and World Learning. The result of this collaboration was a list of proposals regarding what actions could be taken to strengthen foreign language learning and expand international education. The ideas set forth include the following:

Promote foreign language learning at all levels, including efforts to achieve bi-literacy, by

Help teachers acquire skills to understand and interpret countries and cultures for their students by

Increase opportunities for the exchange of faculty, administrators, and students by

Strengthen English instruction abroad by

In addition to generating such proposals, the international education initiative has led to a number of concrete results. Last November 13–17, the Departments of Education and State worked together to promote the first International Education Week. Hundreds of activities were organized in the United States and throughout the world, exemplifying the public-private partnerships the initiative aims to stimulate. American and foreign ambassadors visited schools in the United States and over 80 countries, while embassies here and abroad sponsored essay contests, lectures, and informational workshops for prospective students. A sampling of the activities organized by schools and universities includes international film festivals, foreign language career fairs, teacher exchanges, Internet collaboration with students from other countries, photo exhibits, readings by international authors, seminars, and essay contests. Communities throughout the United States celebrated the week by hosting international visitors and organizing cultural festivals. A full list of activities and suggestions for future celebrations can be found on the International Education Web site (U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of State, 2000).

Another product of the initiative was the creation of a "Teacher's Guide to International Collaboration on the Internet" (U.S. Department of Education, 2000b). This Web-based resource contains practical ideas for developing global awareness and building collaborative relationships with students from other countries. It contains examples of successful projects created by language teachers as well as science, math, social studies, art, music, and vocational education teachers. It also includes links to ongoing projects that classes can join, a list of resources for cross-cultural interaction, online tutorials for developing collaborative projects, helpful suggestions from teachers, and answers to frequently asked questions.

One of the most exciting results to date was the announcement of funding for new dual language programs. In December, the Department of Education announced $15 million in grants to 71 elementary schools to develop dual language programs. Dual language programs provide content instruction in English and in the native language of the English language learners in the class. Successful programs allow both native English speakers and English language learners to develop proficiency in two languages, perform at or above grade level in both languages, and develop greater cross-cultural understanding.

The international education initiative has been gaining momentum since its announcement last year. There is a growing consensus that the United States needs a coordinated strategy to meet the educational challenges and opportunities created by globalization. While the support of federal policy makers is important, it is equally important that those in the field continue to inform the discussion and promote increased awareness and investment in international education. Below are several suggestions for promoting this initiative and helping to move it forward.


Lugar, R.R. (2001, February 1). [Transcript]. Available:

Memorandum for the heads of executive departments and agencies. Subject: International education policy. (2000, April 19). Oklahoma City, OK: Office of the White House Press Secretary. Available:

S. Con. Res. 7, 107th Cong., 1st Sess. (2001). Available:

U.S. Department of Education. (2000a, November 15). Strengthening the U.S. government's leadership in promoting international education. A discussion paper. Washington DC: Author. Available:

U.S. Department of Education. (2000b). Teacher's guide to international collaboration on the Internet. Available:

U.S. Department of Education & U.S. Department of State (2000). International education week: Information kit. Available:

Other Resources

Council on International Education. (2000). Educating Americans for the global era [Op-ed]. Available:

Howard, E. (1999). Two-way (dual) immersion [ERIC/CLL Resource Guide Online]. Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics. Available:

Joint National Committee on Languages Web site. Available:

Marcos, K. (1998). Why, how, and when should my child learn a second language? [Brochure]. Rockville, MD: Aspen Systems, ACCESS ERIC. Available:

Marcos, K.M. (2000, June). Improving international education through collaboration: Departments of State and Education act on international education policy initiative. ERIC/CLL Language Link [Online]. Available:

Marcos, K.M., & Peyton, J.K. (2000). Promoting a language proficient society: What you can do. Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics. Available:

NAFSA Association of International Educators Web site. Available:

Peterson, T.K., Ginsburg, A.L., Garcia, L.Y., & Lemke, M. (2000, November 22). Educational diplomacy. Education Week [Online], 20(12). Available:

Riley, R., Mineta, N., & Caldera, L. (2000, December 19). Dual language grant announcement [Transcript]. Available:

U.S. Department of Education. (1999). International education and graduate programs. Available:

U.S. Department of Education & U.S. Department of State. International Education Policy Web site. (2000). Available:

U.S. Department of Education Planning and Evaluation Services. (2000). International affairs: The importance of international education. Available:

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