With all the recent talk about the decrease in foreign language enrollment in the United States, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at some concrete examples of real career paths that began in a language classroom. These examples are all taken from profiles done of Boren Awards alumni who applied to and received funding based in no small part on their dedication to language study, among other things. These students show how a dedication to linguistic and cultural learning can help lead to meaningful work on some of the most important global concerns of our time.
Co-authored by Daniel Obst, Deputy Vice President, International Partnerships in Higher Education.
When we first traveled to Myanmar two years ago, there was little to no Wi-Fi, few mobile phones (SIM cards could only be obtained by lottery and cost around $1,500 each, making it unaffordable for most), no ATM machines or credit card usage, and frequent electricity outages. Fast forward just two years: consistent access to Wi-Fi, excellent 3G, and little need to bring stacks of cash anymore (credit cards are now accepted at most hotels). The arrival of telecom providers TeleNor and Oredoo has reduced the price of SIM cards to $1.50 resulting in a reported 30%+ market penetration of cell phones. Electricity outages are still common, and traffic in Yangon is worse than ever, but major change is palpable everywhere, and ATMs and 3G are just the more visible manifestations of this extraordinary transition.
In the five plus years I have worked at IIE, the term “workforce development” has become a more stable part of international higher education lingo. Although the concept of workforce development has been around for a long time, it has recently gained prominence in the field based on several factors in the ever-evolving state of the global economy. Here is what I have learned about the impact of international education on global workforce development.
As part of IIE's Higher Education Readiness (HER) program, which provides young women in secondary school from underserved communities with a pathway to university, our team in the Addis Ababa office is organizing inspirational speakers to meet with the girls several times each semester. The speakers are Ethiopian women who have, despite challenges in their lives, become leaders in their field. The speakers are wonderful examples for the girls on what they can become if they focus, stay in school, and follow their dreams.
Chadleya Idriss began making toys for her children using recycled wood, which was “safer, more environmentally friendly, and more affordable than store-bought toys,” she explains. Chadleya went to the WES Center for Women’s Business Development in Kairouan, Tunisia, with a dream of starting a toy business. She participated in the WES entrepreneurship training and worked closely with the WES Center staff to conduct market research on the local toy industry. Last November, Chadleya launched her new business, Toy Story.
Our experience suggests that fragile states cannot succeed without major investments in higher education. Accordingly, neglecting academic needs during and after armed conflict raises the risk of failure once peace is restored—with security implications for the rest of the world. As noted by IIE Vice President Daniela Kaisth, “there is widespread recognition that education at all levels must be protected during war for the vital role it plays in preserving leadership, stabilizing societies, and once conflict subsides, rebuilding peaceful and prosperous communities.”
IIE is excited to announce that an additional 100 girls were awarded IIE's Higher Education Readiness (HER) scholarship. These 11th grade girls (fifty each from Fitawrari and Addis Ketema schools) should be proud of their accomplishments. They were selected by an independent review panel consisting of Ethiopian leaders in the non-profit and private sectors. The panelists chose the next round of HER girls based on academic successes, financial need, and potential for leadership. After a thorough review of all the submitted applications, the review panel submitted the final list for IIE review and notification to the selected girls and schools.
It was a real lesson in globalization. The airplane announcement went something like this:
"The local authorities have asked us to spray the cabin to prevent the spread of disease by mosquitos. Please do not breathe in if you are allergic to spraying. And due to the recent outbreaks of Ebola, MERS, H1N1, and bird flu, please report to local authorities upon landing if you have any of the following symptoms: ..." You can imagine the list.
"All men are brothers." The sentence came back to me here in the middle of a dinner hosted by the Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange for about 100 Fulbright U.S. English Teaching Assistants soon heading home. The words are from a novel published in China in 1589, Tale of the Water Margin, about what one learns through struggles in a world almost constantly at war. The sentence was later used by Gandhi as part of the title for his book of autobiographical reflections on how many people with many differences could live together if they thought about the aspirations that bound them together.