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US update focuses on ‘hyper-connected world’

The US has revealed an international strategy on education with the aim to prepare the students of today for a “hyper-connected world”.

The US Department of Education wants the strategy to "address global challenges". Photo: Pexels

The framework for the strategy consists of two goals – the strengthening of US education and the advancement of US international priorities

Released by the US Department of Education under Secretary Miguel Cardona, the strategy outlines the goal to be a nation in which a diverse society, global challenges and opportunities, economic competitiveness and national security and diplomacy “are the reality”. It is an update on the initial 2012–16 strategy.

The framework for the strategy, like its predecessor, consists of two goals – the strengthening of US education and the advancement of US international priorities.

To achieve these goals, the department of education has said it will “increase global and cultural competencies” in US students, while learning from other countries and “engaging in active education diplomacy”.

This updated 2022 version of “Succeeding Globally Through International Education and Engagement” is, however, quite similar on points made in the 10-year-old version drafted by the department under secretary Anne Duncan.

“It’s good to see the Department demonstrating how it intends to focus on international education as part of its strategy for strengthening U.S. education and advancing U.S. international priorities,” Jill Welch, senior policy advisor at the Presidents’ Alliance, told the PIE.

“We have called for a White House level office to coordinate government action across the agencies to support welcoming and retaining international students,” she continued.

When it comes to pathways of communication, a key objective for international educators in the US included in the strategy is the engagement in “active education diplomacy”.

The department of education wants to address this objective by “engaging bilaterally” with other countries and participating in more international organisations – all while sharing knowledge of their education system, and vice versa.

“Continuing to seek pathways of communication and understanding are at the core of the history of international education”

“The department also participates in reviewing and developing declarations, resolutions and reports – education diplomacy is an important component of US engagement that builds goodwill and provides and avenue for regular and positive engagement,” the strategy reads.

“The department’s work on issues related to academic and professional mobility also helps to build relationships in the international education community,” it continues.

The objective to better the global and cultural competency of US students aims to create “people who are: proficient in at least two languages”; aware of cultural differences; critical and creative thinkers “who can understand diverse perspectives”; and be able to operate at a “professional level” in intercultural situations.

The strategy calls these competencies interrelated and vital to help students understand the internationality that the US is seeking.

The aim, according to a framework created for the objective, wants students to be “proficient in at least one other language” by the time they are in secondary education.

This is a task that the department will be keen to master, as the 2018 American Community Survey, over 78% of the American population only spoke English at home.

The strategy also touches on the importance of diversity in international education; the International and Foreign Language Education division has “included priorities in program competitions” to increase the number of HBCUs, MSIs and community colleges participating in Fulbright-Hays Act and the Title VI of the Higher Education Act.

“The strong focus on increasing students’ global and cultural competencies as one of the three objectives is crucial, now more than ever given the increasing societal divides, dire humanitarian challenges and global conflicts,” Darla Deardorff, executive director at AIEA, told The PIE News.

“Within that focus, it is important to note that the report stresses the relevance of these competencies across disciplines, the importance of languages within this and that such  competencies need to be for all students, not just those privileged to engage in education abroad.

“It is important to recognise, though, the need to also focus on developing global and cultural competencies for faculty too, since this is a lifelong process,” Deardorff added.

In the 2012 version, below, the global competency problem was to be taken on by a “global competency task force”; and, while it does mention that foreign languages are an important tool to make people global citizens, its focus is not as primary in that objective as it is in this latest version.

The third objective is also something international educators will want to keep a firm eye on – that of learning with “and from” other countries to strengthen education in the US.

The strategy encourages “benchmarking”, so that areas of strength and weakness can be identified and “used to guide our deeper learning”, the document reads.

It relents that this should be a “shared endeavour”, however, so that lessons can be learned on both sides.

Such language is also present in the original version: “The Department supports “benchmarking” US students’ performance against that of students in other countries. The goal of this research is to identify areas of strength and deficiency, and then use this information to guide our learning,” it reads.

The latest version demonstrates the willingness to keep learning and sharing expertise by stating its involvement with the OECD report, Education at a Glance 2021, as well as other surveys and statistical analysis of the sector across the world.

“From these studies we not only learn how the US compares to other countries, but we also learn what US students know and how they perform, as well as how an individual’s skill relate to their experience at work and outside of work,” the strategy reads.

Critically, it reaffirms the idea that partnerships are the key to more “innovative practices” – and the strategy is “promoting active dialogue about education topics of mutual interest”, such as the pandemic and diverse educator workforce.

Posting on LinkedIn regarding the new strategy, executive director of Study Alabama Stacye Thompson said the strategy “reinforces” the struggle educators face.

“This reinforces the importance of the job international educators to help student learning outcomes for the future,” said Thompson.

“With the chaotic global violence, its voices of collaboration, engagement, and peace that may seem to be outliers.

“But continuing to seek pathways of communication and understanding are at the core of the history of international education since the 19th century. So it’s more important than ever,” she wrote.

A fourth objective not included in the newest version was that of “monitoring, developing and continuously improving ED’s international activities in an integrated and coordinated manner”, but the idea of self-monitoring and develop now seems to have been weaved into each of the three latest objectives, thus streamlining the strategy slightly.

The document also reaffirmed statements made by the departments of State and Education and the creation of a Joint Statement of Principles in Support of International Education.

Welch also relented that the statement, which was made in mid-2021, gives a “more detailed roadmap of how to fully leverage the power of international education and exchanges”.

In the principles, it is said that the US “cannot afford to be absent from the world stage”.

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