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Trading Places: Fulbright Program Sends U.S. Teachers Abroad

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Washington--This year, 214 American teachers will trade places with teachers from the United Kingdom, West Germany, France, Switzerland, Denmark, and Canada as part of the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program.

About three-fourths of the participants are elementary- and secondary-school teachers.

The Fulbright teachers from five of the seven nations met at orientation seminars last week at American University here. (Another group of teachers is meeting this week at San Francisco State University.)

The teacher-exchange program is named in honor of U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright, who sponsored legislation 35 years ago to encourage international exchange for graduate students, college professors, and schoolteachers. The program was designed to promote mutual understanding between nations in the aftermath of World War II, according to Robert Coonrod, deputy director of the United States Information Agency (usia), which spends $2 million annually to run the program.

Congress "re-emphasized" the 1948 Fulbright legislation in Public Law 87-256, the Mutual Education-al and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961.

usia contracts with the U.S. Education Department (ed) to administer the teacher-exchange program.

The program office, the teacher-exchange branch of ed's office of international education programs, has an eight-member staff and an operating budget of $450,000, according to Pat Kern Schaefer, head of the teacher-exchange branch.

The rest of the $2 million from usia covers other administrative overhead, the cost of orientation conferences, and teachers' travel expenses, according to Ms. Schaefer.

Unlike other Fulbright programs, the teacher-exchange program does not provide participants with stipends for research. The teachers' salaries are paid by their school districts, which agree to give participants a year's paid leave in exchange for a foreign teacher.

Last year, some 2,000 teachers applied for the 212 U.S. openings, according to Ms. Schaefer. Volunteer selection committees--set up by the program office--conducted interviews in 70 cities.

Teachers are judged on motivation, seriousness of purpose, flexibility, and adaptibility to new environments. They must be currently employed (so that foreign teachers can have jobs to come to); they must also have three years of teaching experience and be fluent in the language of the country they intend to go to. The deadline for filing applications (with three letters of recommendation) is Oct. 15.

This year, 165 teachers from the United Kingdom, 21 from West Germany, 15 from France, 11 from Canada, one from Denmark, and one from Switzerland are participating in the program.

In addition to administering the teacher-exchange program, ed's office of international programs oversees several inservice-training programs for U.S. teachers who want experience abroad.

The department spends $500,000 to operate six-week summer programs in China, Korea, Israel, Italy, Pakistan, India, and Brazil, according to Ms. Schaefer.

The programs are open to foreign-language teachers who want to improve their proficiency and to social-studies teachers who want to learn more about the history and culture of places they teach about.

For further information about short-term seminars or the Fulbright teacher-exchange program contact the Teacher-Exchange Branch, International Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C. 20202.

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