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[casi] OT/ 'America's ignorance of the world is now a national liability'

Task force calls for more study abroad
'America's ignorance of the world is now a national

Wednesday, November 19, 2003 Posted: 1:44 PM EST (1844

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Claiming America has a "serious
deficit in global competence," an independent task
force on Tuesday urged the government to increase the
number of U.S. college students who learn foreign
languages and study abroad.

Researchers said Americans are disconnected from the
rest of the world at a time when anti-American
sentiments run high over the war in Iraq and the
aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks on New
York and Washington.

"Our country simply cannot afford to remain ignorant
of the rest of the world. The stakes are simply too
high," said former Education Secretary Richard Riley,
honorary co-chairman of the Strategic Task Force on
Education Abroad.

September 11 was "a warning that America's ignorance
of the world is now a national liability," said the
report, compiled for the Association of International
Educators, a private organization that promotes
international education and exchange. The "stubborn
monolingualism and ignorance of the world" that
persists in the United States only feeds the confusion
many Americans felt after September 11, it said.

"We need to ask ourselves not only why they hate us,
but why we did not know they hate us so much?" said
Julia Chang Bloch, a former ambassador to Nepal.

The task force urged Congress to set aside $3.5
billion a year to fund fellowships that would allow a
half-million students to receive grants of up to
$7,000 annually to earn college credit overseas. The
goal is to have funding to support 5 million students
by 2010, said former Illinois Sen. Paul Simon, an
honorary co-chairman. Currently, about 130,000 of the
nation's 13 million full-time and part-time
undergraduate students participate in
university-sponsored study abroad programs each year,
the report said.

By contrast, Simon said, 584,000 students from other
countries studied at U.S. colleges and universities
during the 2002-2003 academic year.

Researchers suggested that lawmakers, educators and
private businesses create a national program to ensure
that every college graduate is proficient in at least
one foreign language and studies at least one
international subject. To help make programs more
accessible to students of all backgrounds, the task
force asked colleges to adjust degree requirements and
fees for overseas study, so it is not seen as a
program for privileged students.

A record number of students -- 160,920 -- studied
overseas for credit in the 2001-2002 school year, but
90 percent stayed for one semester or less. The group
hopes to have 20 percent of undergraduate American
college students, or 2.6 million, abroad by 2010, and
50 percent, or 6.5 million students, by 2040.

More than half of all students who do study overseas
go to Britain, Italy, Spain or France, the report
said. To combat that, the program wants to encourage
students to consider countries outside Western Europe,
such as China and those in Africa.

The full report can be found at:

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