Most Americans consider international exposure to be an essential part of the student experience, according to a report released last week by NAFSA. The survey by the Washington-based international educators' association, Educating Students for Success in the Global Economy, made several key observations about American attitudes to international education.
While the single biggest issue concerning Americans continues to be the state of the economy, the report found that most recognise the country's future success rests on its ability to prepare students with the "skills necessary to navigate life and careers in an age of global connectedness and global competition".
The November telephone survey of 1,200 people from across the US found that more than half the respondents felt it was moderately to very essential that an international education be a part of the general educational experience.
But, in terms of providing students with a competitive career edge, 65% believed that developing foreign language skills was crucial. Moreover, nearly three-quarters (73%) felt that colleges should do a better job of teaching American students about the world so that they can compete in the global economy.
Slightly fewer - but still more than 50% - of the respondents felt that thriving in a global workplace demanded more students participate in study abroad opportunities while in college.
One question addressed the contentious and polarising issue of facilitating the immigration of skilled higher educational professionals to the US. Although support wavered - at 40% - the overall data did show that those more strongly in favour of international education recognised that the recruitment of international talent was a necessary way to fuel excellence in higher education.
NAFSA also sponsors the Connecting Our World campaign, a grassroots effort spearheaded by international education advocates dedicated to educating government and the public about the importance of investing in international education.
Crucial to its mandate is the acknowledgement of a so-called 'new era of global engagement', in which the resolution of transcultural challenges including resource management, non-proliferation, the spread of pandemics and extremism is identified as being the purview of higher education.
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