Published on TaipeiTimes
US students take a world view
A program launched three years ago aims to make international knowledge and skills an important part of the education of American youngsters
AFP , WASHINGTON
Saturday, Dec 17, 2005,Page 9
When American Tracy Wolstencroft
was asked to move to
He turned to his daughter, who had no clue
what he and his wife were considering, and enquired: "How would you feel
if we were to live in
The eight-year-old replied, "Why would we do that? No one there looks like us," recollecting images of Japanese faces on television.
Instantly, the decision for Wolstencroft and his wife became very easy.
"We needed to go, both professionally and personally," he said, looking back to the decision eight years ago.
Wolstencroft is back in the
That little girl of his is now a sophomore in high school. She speaks the equivalent of fifth grade Japanese and is in her third year of taking Mandarin.
She and her brother have also welcomed a
new sister into their family, a baby girl they adopted from
"One of the best decisions we made as
a family was living in Asia and immersing ourselves in the languages and
cultures of that great continent," Wolstencroft
said, sharing his own family's experience to US students and teachers gathered
Goldman Sachs Foundation, a philanthropic organization funded by the financial house, and Asia Society, a US-based group striving to firm up links with Asia, are into their third year of a joint program to make international knowledge and skills a key part of a 21st century education.
The program rewards schools which emerged with new ways of teaching world languages and focus on the international dimension of every major subject, including math, science, languages arts, history, geography and economics.
It was launched in response to growing concerns by business leaders and policy makers over the comparatively weak performance of American students in assessments of their knowledge of other world regions, languages and cultures.
"One of the things that always struck
me when living in
US students risk falling behind peers in other nations in their preparation for new jobs because critical skills needed to compete in the global marketplace have not yet been adopted in most US schools, warned a new study by Asia Society and Goldman Sachs Foundation.
"For today's students, knowledge of the rest of the world is not a luxury; it has become a necessity," the report said.
Until recently, it said, the need for international education and language skills had not been part of the debate on US education standards, which has focused on mastering basic skills in reading, math and science.
Today, political, business and education leaders are grappling how to produce workers and citizens who can remain competitive in a global economy.
Government figures shows US companies notched up US$315 billion in overseas profits last year -- a figure that is up 78 percent over the decade and that far outpaces the growth of domestic profits by US companies.
Already, one in five
"Our students are no longer Virginians competing against Iowans. They are competing against young people all over the world," said Virginia Governor Mark Warner, a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2008.
Despite living in the world's most developed economy and a huge market, US students in high schools and colleges are being told that when they graduate they will be mostly selling to and buying from the world and working for international companies.
In particular, they will be competing with Asians for jobs.
Due to globalization, American
"workers in virtually every sector must now face competitors who live just
a mouse-click away" in nations whose economies are growing, said a
bipartisan report on
This year, for example, an estimated
"If young Americans are to take on challenging global leadership roles in the future, they must possess a deep understanding and appreciation for other cultures, geography, history and languages," said Stephanie Bell-Rose, Goldman Sachs Foundation president.
"The world will demand it of them, we must demand it of our education system," she said.
The international education program run by the foundation and Asia Society has made some inroads.
Winners of this year's awards included
Other award recipients were elementary
students in a
"These innovations can change the face of education," said Vishakha Desai, president of Asia Society. "By integrating international themes into the rhythm of the school day, educators are making instruction more rigorous, relevant and exciting."