Plan Would Place More Emphasis on International Issues
New York--Education should give students a global perspective of human events, and educators should share successful teaching and learning practices with colleagues in other countries, according to recommendations being drafted for consideration by state chiefs at their meeting next month.
The proposed recommendations, discussed by the Council of Chief State School Officers' study commission in meetings here last week, also include possible state requirements aimed at increasing the proficiency of American students in foreign languages.
The study group, which comprises representatives from each of the 50 states, sought an initial consensus in its meetings here on the international-education policies to be presented for adoption by the chiefs. A draft of the recommendations will be presented to the council's executive committee next week.
In addition to suggested state policies in foreign-language instruction, the study commission recommended ways to improve cross-national comparisons of student-achievement data and school methods, and ways to promote greater appreciation of other cultures, races, and religions.
"We can survive and prosper only if we have more and deeper knowledge of other countries and cultures and of international processes and events," said James Becker, director of the Social Studies Development Center at Indiana University, in one of two papers prepared for the commission. "Serious questions remain about whether the education offered in the nation's schools reflects this growing interdependence."
Judith Torney-Purta, a professor with the Institute for Child Study at the University of Maryland and author of the second background paper, warned that if the state chiefs do not take a more active role in supporting participation in cross-national comparisons of education, they will "leave the enterprise to those whose aims may be limited to alarming the public about purported educational declines."
The commission agreed that states should: require all public schools to offer instruction in a foreign language; support the learning of a second language in the earliest years of schooling; build measures of speaking and listening proficiency in foreign languages; and require a sequence of second-language study leading to demonstrated proficiency for students in the academic or college-bound track in high school.
They also proposed that states require future foreign-language teachers to live for a period of time in a place in which that language is spoken in order to be certified.
States and local districts should also begin a "talent search" for students of the highest foreign-language ability and provide them with opportunities to pursue advanced study. Such study might include, they suggested, attendance at magnet or international high schools providing instruction in languages not commonly taught in traditional high schools.
But commission members skirted the issue of bilingual education. Several said that recommendations regarding bilingual education would endanger the entire proposal in their states, where the subject has become politically unpopular.
The commission suggested that the council's new assessment and8evaluation center cooperate with other agencies involved in the collection of international data on schooling and, whenever possible, establish "indicators of educational health" in a format consistent with those used by international projects.
Commission members also proposed that the council continue to work with publishers to review and possibly increase the international perspective of textbooks.