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NEA stresses the importance of foreign languages and global competence

WASHINGTON - July 20, 2010 -

To thrive in today’s global and interdependent society, America’s students need to become more proficient in world languages and become more aware of global issues. That was the theme of Language Learning for a Global Age, a policy summit hosted on Capitol Hill today. National Education Association (NEA) Executive Director John Wilson and leaders from the business, education, security and intelligence communities discussed strategies during the half-day event.

“We must prepare students with the skills they need to compete in a global economy,” said Wilson. “They can graduate from high school with advanced levels of proficiency if they start learning languages in the early grades.”

NEA, the Asia Society Partnership for Global Learning, Committee for Economic Development, American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, and Joint National Committee on Languages hosted the summit. It featured panels on various topics, including the importance of learning foreign languages and understanding how this knowledge affects businesses and competitiveness. Experts discussed how the lack of language proficiency can impact national security and global diplomacy, and they shared examples of programs and initiatives that are working across the country.

Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) joined other members of Congress to talk about the steps policymakers can take to push the issue of global competency to the forefront. In the coming weeks, he is expected to introduce the “Excellence and Innovation in Language Learning Act,” which would stimulate excellence and innovation in national, state and local policies and programs in the teaching and learning of foreign languages at the K-12 levels. It would provide more learning options for students and professional development opportunities for current and future foreign language teachers. 

“Global horizons are broadening while curricula in the U.S. are narrowing,” added Wilson. “High-stakes testing and sanctions-based accountability have resulted in an almost exclusive emphasis on reading and math. While these subjects are critical, schools must also ensure students are prepared to enter college and the workforce by providing global knowledge and language skills.”

To read NEA’s policy brief on Global Competency:

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing
3.2  million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Ramona Parks-Kirby  (202) 822-7823,