Highlighting the need to educate American students about the world around them, the Goldman Sachs Foundation, together with the Asia Society, announced the first winners of their new prize for excellence in international education last week.
One-quarter of the nation’s high school students don’t know the name of the ocean that separates the United States from Asia—the Pacific—and 80 percent do not know that India is the world’s largest democracy, according to a 2001 study conducted by the Asia Society, a New York City-based organization that promotes an increased understanding of the countries and cultures in Asia.
The prizes, which the organizers hope will help eradicate such ignorance, were announced at the second States Institute for International Education in the Schools. Representatives from 25 states attended the three-day gathering here, which was designed to help states devise strategies and seek advice on incorporating global studies into their curricula. (“States Explore Ways to Raise Global Issues in Curricula,” Dec. 4, 2002.)
“If young Americans are to take on challenging global leadership roles in the future, they must have not only an education well-grounded in the technology of the 21st century, but also a deep understanding of other cultures, geography, history, and languages,” said Stephanie Bell-Rose, the president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the international banking and investment firm Goldman Sachs Group Inc., based in New York City.
International education has far-reaching effects on the social and economic future of the United States, advocates say.
“To solve most of the major problems facing our country today—from wiping out terrorism to minimizing global environmental problems to eliminating the scourge of AIDS— will require every young person to learn more about other regions, cultures, and languages,” U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in a statement praising the Goldman Sachs Foundation Prizes for Excellence in International Education for its “efforts to promote international learning.”
And the Winners Are ...
The cash prizes of $25,000 each were given in five categories: elementary/middle school, high school, higher education, states, and media/technology.
John Stanford International School, a K-5 school in Seattle, won the elementary/middle school prize. The school’s 400 pupils spend half of each day studying in either Spanish or Japanese, and the other half in English. The immersion program includes lessons in world dance, art, and music.
Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Ill., won the high school award. International studies has been a graduation requirement at the 3,100-student school north of Chicago since 1992.
The University of Vermont was recognized for its Asian Studies Outreach program, which has helped integrate lessons on the history of Asia in K-12 classrooms throughout the state. Teachers in participating schools receive professional development in Asian history and culture, and some have taken study tours of China, Japan, and Thailand.
North Carolina earned the state prize for its government’s support of schools with an international focus and the work of universities in the state to support global education in K-12 schools. James B. Hunt Jr., North Carolina’s longtime former governor, is a trustee of the Asia Society.
Two winners shared the media/technology prize: International Education and Resource Network, or iEarn; and Sesame Workshop. Based in New York City, iEarn links schools in the United States with schools in other countries via the Internet.
Sesame Workshop was honored for the television program “Sesame Street,” which has recently focused more attention on the lives of children around the world by sending its famous character Grover on a months-long globe- trotting adventure.