Each year in November, we pause to celebrate International Education Week (IEW). The U.S. Departments of Education and State started IEW in 2000, to recognize and reflect on our interconnectedness and the importance of education to all of us around the globe, and as I look at recent developments around the world I see that this focus is even more relevant and compelling today.
We are interconnected in so many ways. Political, social and economic events and changes around the world affect us all. Examples include this year’s Olympic Games where at least one female athlete represented each participating country, the struggles in the emerging democracies in the Middle East, devastating earthquakes in Japan and other natural disasters across the globe, financial crises in Europe, and the rapidly expanding economies of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, to mention a few.
Our interconnected world stage requires us to look outwards as we work to develop globally competent students who can compete for good jobs, work to address global challenges like climate change and health epidemics, as well as support our national security and diplomacy. As a country of immigrants, it is no less important that we are able to communicate, work with and learn from our neighbors, coworkers, and friends who may have different cultural traditions and perspectives. Having diverse colleagues and friends in the U.S., together with my experiences overseas, have certainly enriched my life and expanded my horizons and opportunities.
For just these reasons, the Department of Education is engaging more actively in education internationally and has developed its first-ever, fully-integrated international strategy, Succeeding Globally Through International Education and Engagement, to guide our work. The international strategy is inextricably linked with the Department’s domestic priorities to advance two goals simultaneously: to strengthen U.S. education and to advance our nation’s international priorities. By working to increase the global competencies of all U.S. students, learning from other countries to improve our education policies and practices, and engaging in active education diplomacy, we will help to advance these two strategic goals. The strategy is firmly based on the belief that a world-class education for all—both domestically and internationally—is a win-win.
One of the first steps in implementing our international strategy was to host—with international and domestic partners—the first International Summit on the Teaching Profession in 2011 and the second in 2012. These summits brought together ministers and union leaders with high-performing and rapidly improving education systems from around the world to discuss how to enhance and elevate the teaching profession worldwide. The dialogue will continue in 2013 when the Netherlands hosts the third Summit.
Every week is really international education week, but with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I am thankful that we have one week where we focus and reflect on the important role education plays in connecting us across the globe.
Watch Secretary Arne Duncan’s recorded message for the 13th International Education Week:
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
Maureen McLaughlin is senior advisor to the Secretary and director of International Affairs