Building a Stronger Pipeline of Globally-Competent Citizens

Archived Information

Building a Stronger Pipeline of Globally-Competent Citizens

Remarks of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the International Education Week "Mapping the Nation: Making the Case for Global Competency" Launch Event

November 18, 2013

Good afternoon, everyone – and welcome to our Department's kick-off event for International Education Week.

As we get started, I want to thank Maureen McLaughlin and her staff, for their dedicated work on international affairs here at the Department – and for helping pull together this event and the week's activities.

I also want to welcome Tony Jackson, Vice President for Education at Asia Society, and his colleague, the Society's Assistant Director, Heather Singmaster. Together with their colleague from the Longview Foundation, Jennifer Manise, they're the driving force behind the mapping project we'll learn about today.

And, we're glad to have Caroline McCullen, the Director of Education Initiatives at SAS Institute, on our panel. Her team helped bring the map to life, online.

Now, my whole team and I are proud to join our State Department colleagues in hosting what's become an important annual tradition. Each November since the year 2000, International Education Week has served to call attention to a vital issue.

On an almost daily basis, events and challenges around the world affect and involve all of us.

In our global community, learning matters – and that's our theme this year.

Just over a week ago, we've seen the devastating impact of Typhoon Haiyan. Across the country, Filipino-Americans and their neighbors united to show support for the men, women and children in the region who are struggling with such staggering loss. The U.S. and other countries have mobilized to provide aid, shelter and medical supplies.

And last week – for the first time in Olympic history – the crew of the International Space Station carried the Olympic torch on their spacewalk.

And two weeks ago, I visited Haiti at the invitation of Minister of Education Pierre. As Haiti continues working to rebuild its infrastructure and economy, education is a top priority – for the Haitian government and the Haitian people.

I felt that demand – that hunger for education – everywhere I went. I saw it in the eyes of the children, who are so eager to attend school. I visited a 7th grade classroom, with 110 students in it. But, when the teacher spoke, you could hear a pin drop!

I was reminded that, for Haiti's children, and for students like them in classrooms all around the world, education is about as important to their development and future success as food, water, or air. It is this way to escape poverty and have a better life.

Together, we need to make sure they get that education. And, we need to encourage that same understanding in every classroom here in the United States.

Clearly, these are complex, fast-changing times. Part of America's genius through the years, and one of the factors that's kept us a strong global leader, is our ability to keep pace with change – and even stay ahead of it.

Here's how Tom Friedman – the author, New York Times columnist, and one of the smartest thinkers on the profound impact of globalization – explains it. He says that so many of the jobs our students are training for today don't even exist yet – and that many of the jobs of the future will be ones that individuals themselves help to invent.

And as he's also pointed out, one key to this nation's success is that we've always educated our people up to, and beyond, whatever skills the current technologies required.

So, in the 19th century, that meant universal primary school for our children. In the 20th century, it meant universal secondary school. And in the 21st century, in the digital age, it means universal postsecondary education in some form – whether that's represented by a technical certificate, a two-year degree, a four-year degree, or something beyond that.

And, life in the 21st century doesn't just mean navigating the digital age. It also means adapting to the most hyper-connected, interdependent world we've ever seen.

Today, a nation's prosperity depends on its people's ability to thrive in the global marketplace. This is true for the U.S. and for our neighbors across the globe.

What's more, in a nation as diverse as ours, the ability to interact comfortably and confidently with people of all backgrounds and points of view is critical.

And that makes it more important than ever to provide all students with a well-rounded, world-class education – including opportunities to gain global competencies and world language skills; to understand other cultures; and to study abroad.

President Obama and I clearly understand that we live in an age where jobs know no borders, and where education is the new currency.

These new realities have helped shape our federal education agenda. We're working to ensure that all students are academically prepared, globally competent and internationally successful.

We want to give every child, from every background, a great start in life, by making high-quality preschool available to all. We must close the opportunity gap.

We're encouraging great teaching at every level, and helping to shape the next generation of strong teachers and school leaders.

We're supporting states and local communities in the courageous work of raising standards and helping students to meet them.

And, we're working to ensure that more students can afford and complete college. We want to lead the world in college graduation rates.

Our team worked hard to develop our Department's first, fully-articulated international strategy: "Succeeding Globally through International Education and Engagement."

With goals and activities that run through 2016, it is designed to strengthen U.S. education and achieve important international priorities.

Clearly, one aim is ensuring that our workforce and our country have what it takes to lead in the new economy. Trans-global communication and commerce are a growing part of the daily work, in large and small businesses, all across the country.

But right now, far too many companies struggle to find employees with the right global skills, from cultural awareness to fluency in world languages.

We need to close these skill gaps and reach our full productivity. We must challenge ourselves to do a much better job of filling these high-wage, high-skill jobs.

To help keep America safe, partner effectively with our allies, and collaborate with other nations in solving global challenges, we need professionals with solid cultural knowledge and language skills that cover all parts of the globe.

That's why our Department is providing funds to help more students and educators to gain global competencies, through programs like Title VI and Fulbright-Hays.

These programs also help America's higher education institutions, including community colleges, to build the nation's capacity in foreign languages and area and international studies.

But, we need to start thinking even more broadly than those students who'll go on to work in key fields like national security, diplomacy, and global commerce.

We need to give all students the kind of well-rounded education that equips them with an understanding an openness to the world, and rich experiences with other cultures and languages.

These 21st century skills are just as important to help preserve a rich, multicultural society, and a thriving democracy, right here at home.

Now, you're about to see a tool that highlights these facts in a powerful, visual way.

Today marks the launch of an interactive online map that helps us think about America's deep ties to the world beyond our borders; underscores the need for international education and world languages; and can help us chart state and local progress in preparing a globally-competent workforce.

This first-ever nationwide map shows the ways that every U.S. state and county is connected to the rest of the world – in everything from community demographics to business relationships.

It pulls from a wide range of data sources, links economic statistics with educational and demographic indicators, and lets users compare information within states, and across states and regions.

I believe tools like this one will help us all to better understand the current and growing demand for globally-competent workers. And, this map can go beyond just a snapshot of our current state: it can also help us to plan and improve.

This type of information can help inform bold education reform and workforce development strategies in our states and communities, in ways that grow the pool of available talent and better meet employer needs.

I'll leave it to our speakers to describe how this project evolved – as well as which indicators the map highlights, what data sources it draws on, and what new features they might add in future versions.

But it's a great start: I believe this tool can help us think differently – in areas ranging from education and economic development policies, to teacher professional development priorities, to K-12 and postsecondary course offerings.

Making this information widely available is just the first step: the next step is for leaders from a wide range of sectors to examine, analyze and use the data.

Understanding without action is insufficient.

I believe this map can help spark important conversations, and challenge partners to work more effectively to build a stronger pipeline of globally-competent citizens.

So, again – I want to thank the extraordinary group of partners here: the Asia Society, the Longview Foundation, and SAS – for their leadership, and for collaborating on creating this promising new resource.

I know that an incredible amount of research and creativity went into developing the map, and I know you'll continue to refine it as new data and new uses emerge.

I also want to welcome all our panelists, and thank them for sharing their perspective on how the map can inform and advance their efforts at the national, state and local levels.

There's so much we can and must accomplish, as Americans and as citizens of an increasingly interdependent world. I'm optimistic that we can make this the century the most innovative, collaborative and productive one yet. We have incredible opportunities to move our nation – and humanity – forward. And, we have access to unprecedented technology.

But, for the nations of the world to master our challenges and maximize our opportunities, we need to focus like never before on unleashing all of humanity's vast potential, through the equalizing, life-transforming power of a great education.

We need to understand each other more fully, communicate more clearly, and cooperate more closely than ever before.

International Education Week is a wonderful occasion to celebrate these connections and opportunities with partners here in the U.S., and around the globe.

Thank you all, and have a great International Education Week.