Now more than ever, K-12 students need quality cross-cultural and language learning opportunities for success in the 21st Century workplace.
The joke about Americans abroad — that they speak louder in English when they don’t speak the language — isn’t so funny anymore. There is a real and growing deficit in foreign language skills and cross-cultural competence in the American work force. So critical is the problem that in a rare act of bipartisan, bicameral unity, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has established the Commission on Language Learning with support from the Andrew W. Mellon and Luce Foundations.
Both of our organizations, Qatar Foundation International and VIF International Education, applaud Congress’ and the Academy’s strong support for advancing American students’ competitiveness and the skill sets at the core of being good global citizens. Our organizations implement complementary programs to advance the cause of global education through our respective global schools networks and related program activities that connect young people in the Americas with those elsewhere including the Middle East. Global Leadership Week offers a platform for discussing and advancing these critical issues with educators across the country.
Since 2009, Qatar Foundation International (QFI) has connected students and educators, through language and exchange, to peers from differing socio-economic and cultural backgrounds with programs focused on Arabic language, Arab culture, STEM plus Arts (STEAM) and Youth Engagement. Like VIF, we have seen first hand, the transformative power of language learning and cross-cultural exchange, whether in-person or virtual — inside and outside of classrooms. Is it a coincidence that QFI’s DC partner Washington Latin Public Charter School, the three students to receive the prestigious Trachtenberg Award, full 4-year scholarships to George Washington University, all studied Arabic?
Arabic fluency has helped US students pursue careers in business, journalism, diplomacy, national security, and much more. QFI’s #ISpeakArabic campaign, which launched in November 2015, delivers an open resource platform ispeakarabic.com, that provides open education resources and an advocacy kit for the learning and teaching of Arabic, and includes a series of documentary-style videos that highlight inspirational individuals around the world who are proof positive of career success through Arabic fluency. QFI sees language as a fabric to connect cultures, and has partnered with a number of K-12 public and public charter schools across the country, to provide opportunities for Arabic language education and cultural immersion so that American students can gain a global eduction from a young age.
Using the P21 Framework for State Action on Global Education, an ACTFL and ISTE standards aligned framework, we wanted to share moments that prove the effectiveness and power of providing these opportunities and fostering connections in defining global leadership.