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How We’re Merging Global Awareness, Foreign Policy and Education

Allan Goodman is the president and CEO of the Institute of International Education. .

Written by Allan Goodman Published on Read time Approx. 3 minutes

On March 12, Teach Deeply, News Deeply’s educational arm, co-hosted a panel event at the Institute of International Education called “Global Awareness, Foreign Policy and Education: Preparing American Students for Life and Work in the 21st Century.” The panel debated how to integrate technology into education and educate millennials about the world. Here, the panel’s moderator Allan Goodman, the president and CEO of the Institute of International Education, explains the effort.

To mark Open Education Week, the Institute of International Education, in conjunction with Syria Deeply, hosted a panel exploring how best to infuse U.S. classrooms with foreign policy and global awareness. This conversation is an important one, and one which should be taking place in every school in America.

The event provoked lively conversation about the role of educational exchanges and technology in “Opening Minds to the World.” This is IIE’s mission, and something that all of the speakers care deeply about.

The discussion explored frameworks for change, including what to teach and how to teach, the role of funding agencies and government in promoting and leading change, and how to use technology. The guests included teachers, university faculty, and representatives of government, business nonprofit organizations and other stakeholders.  We also benefited from the contributions of current and recent participants in Fulbright exchanges – including a teacher from Scotland and an American graduate student who had recently returned from her stint as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.

Honor Moorman of the Asia Society shared insight based on her extensive work in curriculum development, while Shamil Idriss, the CEO of Soliya, spoke from his experience in pioneering the use of new media technology to create cross-cultural dialogue between students in the Middle East, Europe and the U.S.

Daniel Hirsch, a New York City teacher, spoke first-hand about his passion for immersion in another culture – he taught in Turkey for a year on a Fulbright Classroom Teacher Exchange. Kristin Nolan, who manages the educational programs at News Deeply, contributed her experience in developing a groundbreaking new project to bring the stories behind the news into American classrooms, starting with an online curriculum that teaches students about the current crisis in Syria.

Each of these activities contributes in an important way to engaging students with the world. New technology offers new opportunities to connect people, and we must be creative and resourceful in using them effectively in the classroom.

There was a fundamental agreement that both people-to-people exchange and connections through technology have a role to play, but that virtual communities can enhance and extend – but not replace — the experience of international educational exchange.

We cannot leave this vital component of education to either exchange or technology alone.  Ultimately, connecting students to the world depends on a commitment on the part of teachers and educators at all levels to make international a part of everyone’s education. Education for global competence has to start at the earliest ages in the classroom, and continue throughout a student’s educational career.

Last year, I served on a Council on Foreign Relations Task Force. Chaired by Joel Klein, former Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, and Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State, found that the U.S. education system is not adequately preparing Americans to meet the demands of the global workforce.

The task force issued a report entitled “US Education Reform and National Security,” stating that our young people “must master essential reading, writing, math, and science skills, acquire foreign languages, learn about the world, and—importantly—understand America’s core institutions and values in order to be engaged in the community and in the international system.”

It issued an emphatic warning that “educational failure puts the United States’ future prosperity, global position and physical safety at risk,” and that “Americans’ failure to learn strategic languages ….limits U.S. citizens’ global awareness, cross-cultural competence, and [their] ability to assess situations and respond appropriately in an increasingly interconnected world.”

The Task Force called out a lack of foreign language skills as one of the key shortfalls.

“Largely as a result of immigration, nearly four hundred languages are spoken within the United States,” the report said. “However, roughly eight in ten Americans speak only English, and a decreasing number of schools are teaching foreign languages.”   The language deficit threatens to “prevent U.S. citizens from participating and competing meaningfully, whether in business or diplomatic situations.  It will also have a negative impact on government agencies and corporations attempting to hire people knowledgeable about other countries or fluent in foreign languages.”

At the Institute where I work, we agree that America cannot continue to compete economically without globally educated citizens with skills in critical areas, including math, sciences, and foreign languages. It is important to support efficient and effective education initiatives at all levels, including targeted higher education initiatives that are strategically targeted to build these skills.

What became evident in our Open Education Week panel is that language learning, teacher exchanges, cross-cultural virtual communities, and revitalizing and internationalizing the curriculum are major tools that can be employed by resourceful educators. Our educational system cannot fail to expose students to the world beyond our borders.

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