U.S. Department of Education
Although the primary mission of the U.S. Department of Education is a domestic one, the department also sponsors international programs, cooperates with other nations, and participates in international organizations, studies, and events. This international role has grown over time with the heightened relevance of global developments for U.S. citizens in an increasingly interdependent world, and the growing awareness of the part played by education in fostering economic, social, and personal development, and in sustaining democracy.
Within these contexts, the department facilitates efforts by U.S. educators, students, researchers, and policymakers to forge partnerships with counterparts abroad who have common interests. The department engages in a variety of international activities with three primary objectives: to strengthen U.S. education, to increase U.S. international expertise, and to facilitate the exchange of information and building of knowledge about education worldwide.
The department's international cooperation helps educators and policymakers understand how U.S. educational performance compares with that of other countries. It also provides information on effective educational policies and practices abroad. The department coordinates U.S. participation in both international assessments of student achievement and the development of internationally comparable educational statistics. Other activities focus on analyzing other countries' best practices in areas in which there have been positive results, as well as learning alongside other nations through joint studies and research projects, on topics ranging from mathematics instruction to migrant education, and from early childhood education to rehabilitation services. Educators and policymakers use such information to improve educational practice in the United States. Other programs support U.S. educational institutions' efforts to build strong partnerships with counterpart institutions abroad.
Through its international activities and grant programs, including those authorized by Title VI of the Higher Education Act and the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961, the department supports efforts to expand the study of the languages and societies of other nations, as well as opportunities for U.S. students and teachers to study and carry out research abroad. Such programs help U.S. citizens develop a broader understanding of, and communicate more effectively with, other nations, and contribute to national security by developing experts on regions of the world that are of strategic importance to the United States. A significant proportion of U.S. students studying abroad receive financial aid from the department.
The department represents the U.S. government in education-related matters at international meetings and conferences, and provides expertise to the U.S. government's foreign affairs and foreign assistance agencies on matters related to education policy and practice. In doing so, it helps to (1) stimulate discussion and research on topics of priority to the United States; (2) increase the participation of U.S. experts in international policy dialogues; (3) build mutual understanding on social issues with other nations; and (4) improve education both at home and abroad. New technologies facilitate these efforts.
Foreign demand for information regarding U.S. education policy and practices results in frequent information exchanges between the department and colleagues in other countries. The department also receives foreign visitors who request to meet with their counterparts to learn about education in the United States. Visitors (more than 1,500 in the year 2000) range from ministers of education and senior policy advisors to school administrators, teachers, members of legislatures, the press, and the private sector. Many others obtain information on U.S. education via the department's web-based resources.
PETERSON, TERRY; GINSBURG, ALAN; GARCIA, LENORE; and LEMKE, MARIANN. 2000. "Educational Diplomacy: Using the Untapped Opportunities of International Education." Education Week November 22, 48.
NAFSA: ASSOCIATION OF INTERNATIONAL EDUCATORS. 2002. <www.nafsa.org>.
OPEN DOORS ON THE WEB. 2001. "Senate Resolution on International Education Policy for the United States." <www.opendoorsweb.org/Lead%20Stories/National_Policy_Resolution.htm>.
LENORE YAFFEE GARCIA
RAFAEL MICHAEL NEVAREZ