This week, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, along with nearly 100 countries around the world, is celebrating
International Education Week (IEW). The week is dedicated to celebrating and promoting the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. While we celebrate IEW, we also know that highlighting the importance of an international education should not be confined to a single week in November nor should the experience be limited to colleges and universities solely. The U.S. Department of Education has
taken great efforts to accelerate programming focused on international education at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), however similar efforts have yet to be made for K-12 African-American students. VIF International Education
surveyed students and “only 12 percent of students strongly agree their sixth–12th-grade teachers incorporate global perspectives into their lessons.” These numbers are shockingly low when considering the need for students to benefit from diverse global perspectives.
The Benefits of an International Education
Schools in districts across the United States are aiming to implement global education into their classrooms. In a school district where 67 percent of the students enrolled are African-American, the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) is taking huge steps in creating a generation of African-American global citizens. Prior to taking formal steps to internationalize education across the district, “some students had a myriad of global opportunities at their fingertips based on the investment of a particular administrator or teacher, and other students may not have had any opportunities at the school level,” said Kate Ireland, director of DCPS Global Education. Now every student can benefit from a global education. DCPS has fully-funded study abroad programs for eighth and 11th-graders with the goal of eventually having every eighth and 11th-grader have a study abroad experience. In its inaugural year, the study abroad program attracted nearly 1,000 applicants for its 380 spots with 280 of the selected students receiving their first passport.
International Education Isn’t Just About Traveling
To ensure African-American students are prepared for the global economy and political environment, we must engage and support Black students in becoming global citizens. Unfortunately, all of our students won’t be able to study abroad but there are things that we can do in the classroom and at home to promote global learning. Here are just a few tips:
Pick up a book! Books are a great source for learning about another culture because they offer the reader a chance to dive into the mind of a character whose reality may be different from the reader. The Global Fund for Children has a list of exciting books promoting global citizenship for students of all ages.
Enjoy cultural activities. Participating in a cultural activity can range from trying a new cuisine to taking part in a local cultural holiday celebration. Many cities will offer cultural activities for holidays celebrated in your community such as Chinese New Year or Dia de Los Muertos, but enjoying a new cuisine can be done in the comfort of your own kitchen.
Volunteer at a local branch of an international organization. Community service is a huge part of global citizenship. As a citizen of the world, giving back to those in need when you can is a great experience. There are a multitude of organizations with branches throughout the U.S. aimed at making a global impact.
Technology opens the doors to interactive cultural activities in the comfort of a classroom. Caring and concerned adults have the ability to introduce students to music, dance, movies, language, and many other aspects of cultural with the click of a button.
We all have a part to play in ensuring that students know they can make a difference in their communities both locally and globally.
Alexandria Myers is a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation intern at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans and a junior studying international affairs at George Washington University.