As Republicans in Washington were bracing for an Election Day in which Democrats would win the presidency and gain seats in Congress, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings traveled to Oman and the United Arab Emirates to talk about the importance of ensuring that all the world’s students have access to a high-quality education.
On Nov. 1, Secretary Spellings traveled to Muscat, Oman, where she visited with students and teachers at the American International School of Muscat. The next day, she participated in a discussion on education during a meeting of leaders from the G-8 and Broader Middle East North Africa countries. She returned to the United States on Tuesday.
On Nov. 3, the secretary visited the Al Suqoor Model School in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. And she also spoke about the importance of universal education at the New York Institute of Technology Abu Dhabi Campus.
“The United States and the United Arab Emirates share more than a first name,” Ms. Spellings said. “We are united in our strong belief in education. We have made parallel journeys to improve our schools at every level.”
Secretary Spellings also talked about the challenges that schools in the United States and United Arab Emirates share.
“Our universities spend precious time and energy covering material students should have learned in secondary school,” she said. “In the U.S., a third of college students need remedial coursework. Here in the U.A.E., these courses take up a third of your postsecondary budget!”
To help address the problem, Secretary Spellings noted that she had convened a Commission on the Future of Higher Education, which released a report in 2006 calling for universities to be held accountable for student outcomes.
Congress has yet to take the panel up on its recommendations.
But, Secretary Spellings said, “It inspired academic debate in the finest tradition.”
The secretary returned to the United States on Nov. 4.
A version of this article appeared in the November 12, 2008 edition of Education Week