A Growing Number of States Importing Services of ConsultantsFrom Overseas
For the past 10 years, Martin Seletzky, a West German high-school teacher and the head of the American Media Center there, has taught students and his fellow educators about the language and culture of the United States.
For the next three years or more, his role will be reversed: He will be bringing the language and culture of his homeland to American students and educators.
As an educational consultant to the Ohio Department of Education, Mr. Seletzky will visit school districts in the state and work with teachers, develop curriculum materials, and provide advice to state education officials about German-related studies.
"My job is to promote German, mainly at the high-school level, but at all levels," said Mr. Seletzky. "German will become, within Europe, a more important language as the Common Market takes hold. Nine million students in the Soviet Union are learning German."
A Growing Phenomenon
Ohio is one of a growing number of states to enlist the services of a consultant provided and paid for by the West German government. German consultants are also at work in California, Georgia, New York, Washington, and Wisconsin.
And Germany is not alone in the business of providing consultants to U.S. school systems. A number of other countries, including France, the Soviet Union, China, and Spain, have exported educators here in recent years to promote their language and culture.
"The number of consultants working at the state level has risen dramatically in the last four or five years," said C. Edward Scebold, executive director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, although hard figures on the number of consultants working here are not currently available.
"They bring a level of expertise and knowledge of the culture that is really important when you are giving an inservice to teachers," Mr. Scebold added.
"Our consultant has been a major part of our team," said Greg Duncan of the Georgia Department of Education, which has had a West German consultant since 1987.
In New York State, the education department has consultants this year from West Germany, the Soviet Union, China, and Italy. An educator from Quebec will join the department next year, and officials are negotiating to bring in experts from Greece and the Dominican Republic in the future.
"As a state, we are really a microcosm of the world," said Maria Ramirez, executive director of the Center for Multinational and Comparative Education in the state education department.
Several states find the consultants helpful at a time when language requirements are being upgraded and more districts are offering less-commonly-taught languages such as Russian and Chinese. (See Education Week, June 14, 1989.)
In New York, for example, the Chinese consultant has been translating publications into Chinese, Ms. Ramirez said.
California, like New York, requires that students learn a language other than their native one.
"We're trying to promote districts to teach foreign languages starting in the elementary grades," said Tomas L. Lopez of the California Department of Education, which has consultants from Spain and West Germany.
"They are great for doing regional workshops to reach people from our more than 1,100 districts," Mr. Lopez said.
The foreign consultants currently working in this country come through a patchwork of agreements between the states and the foreign countries, and sometimes through independent programs, which might provide some of the funding. Often, the foreign government foots much of the bill.
In return, the countries may get a reciprocal visit from an American educator or some other form of aid, in addition to the cultural promotion their representatives provide in this country.
Federal Program Dropped
These initiatives between states and foreign governments, organizers say, are helping fill the gap created when the U.S. Education Department stopped funding a similar federal effort in 1986.
For more than 20 years, the government had sponsored a program that brought curriculum consultants from all over the world to assist state education deparments, local school districts, and universities.
The project, part of the Fulbright Scholars program, provided most of the funding for about a dozen curriculum consultants each year.
From 1964 until 1986, the program sponsored some 80 consultants from Africa, 83 from Central and South America, 73 from Europe, and 91 from other parts of the world.
"Then about three years ago, the department made a determination that the program was of low priority," said Richard T. Thompson, the former Education Department official who oversaw the program, now a dean in the linguistics school at Georgetown University. "Technically, the department could begin this program again."
Although the program was funded at only about $250,000 a year, the Education Department currently has no plans to revive it, a department official said.