American Institute for Foreign Study Foundation

Host a Foreign Exchange StudentAcademic Year in America

Executive Summary - Innocents at Home Redux by Denis Doyle

innocents at home Innocents at home redux - the continuing challenge to America's future by Denis Doyle

To order this publication, send $5 to: Doyle Study, AIFS Foundation, 1 High Ridge Park, Stamford, CT 06905.

As I observed in the first edition of this essay, we Americans know little and care less about foreign cultures; content with our own culture, superpower and world cultural arbiter, we remain relentlessly provincial. In this respect, things remain as they were. Indeed, the enduring symbol of American cultural indifference is our relentless monolingualism. Because English has become the lingua franca of the modern world the language of aviation, technology, medicine, science, art and commerceAmerican ignorance of other peoples and cultures appears not to be a serious disadvantage. Because English is so widely dispersed, Americans can "get along" most anywhere. But this is a fool's paradise. As Senator Paul Simon (IL) says in his book The Tongue Tied American, you can buy in any language, but sell only in the language of your customer.

The numbers are striking; while Americans logged more than 32 million foreign trips in 1999, few Americans were serious students of foreign language or area studies. Of more than one million bachelor's degrees awarded in 1991, one tenth of 1% were in language or area studies and only a tiny fraction of all students in higher education studied abroad. By 1999, the last year for which there is good data, the numbers had hardly budged. By way of illustration, in 1949 1,471 bachelors degrees were awarded in French, 540 in German and 2,122 in Spanish. Fifty years later the numbers were 2,458 in French, 1,214 in German and 6,161 in Spanish. Controlling for overall enrollment increased, the fifty year trend is actually downward!

While America is host to nearly half a million foreign students (490,933 in 1998-99)40% of all those who study abroad we sent only 113, 959 in 1997-98, less than 1% of all 13 million American post secondary students. (To be sure, a welcome increase over the slightly more than 60,000of a decade earlier, but still a small number). Less than 1% of all American students study abroad. The overall scale is instructive. American institutions of higher learning in 1998-99 enrolled 13,391,401 students, a decline of more than one million since the 1993-94 high point of 14,554,016. At the same time foreign student enrollments have increased steadily (even accounting for the sharp economic decline in Asia over the past several years). In 1959-60, 48,486 foreign students studied in the U.S., 1.4% of total enrollment. By 1997-98 the number had climbed to 3.6% of the total, a ten-fold increase.

Even more striking is the distribution of students by two-year, four-year and graduate study. American two-year institutions in 1998-99 enrolled more than five million students, of whom 1.2% or 58,256 were foreign. Bachelor degree programs, which have a total enrollment of six and one half million students, enrolled 176,546 foreign students, or 2.7% of the total. Graduate studies are where the dramatic numbers emerge: Of 1,847,622 total students, 11.4% (211,426) are foreign.

For those who care about economic impact, the dollar numbers are striking as well. IIE estimates (drawing on the College Board's Annual Survey of Colleges for 1997-98) that foreign students bring over 13 billion a year to the U.S. economy, of which 75% is from sources outside the United States. Indeed, only foreign graduate students receive any appreciable support from U.S. sources; slightly more than a third (37.2%) report that they receive income from U.S. Colleges or Universities, twice the number of foreign students at-large.

A recent NAFSA: Association of International Educators paper provides estimates of foreign student financial contributions to state economies, beginning with the aggregate College Board number. Using Indiana as an example, the NAFSA analysis for 1998-99 estimates that nearly one-quarter billion dollars are contributed by foreign students, a not inconsequential amount.

Other numbers are revealing as well: 62% of foreign students in the U.S. are men, the vast majority of whom are studying for professional reasons and most are degree candidates. The American numbers are the mirror image: 65% of Americans abroad are women (an increase of three points in six years), the vast majority studying the liberal arts, most for one semester. It is clear that for many American students the experience is as much travel abroad as study abroad.

Although there are numerous barriers to U.S. study abroadranging from faculty indifference to confusion about student aid, from uncertainty about transferring credits to concern about security none of these obstacles, singly or together, are insurmountable. They can and should be remedied, as noted in the concluding recommendations. But from a policy standpoint, they reflect rather than cause indifference to study abroad.

By way of contrast, the International 50, primarily small liberal arts colleges, send a third of their students abroad. They do so because they are organized to do so and because there is strong demand among their students. Even so, most of these students go to Europe, and often live in American "ghettos" when they get there, which minimizes both their language and cultural experience.

As a proxy for multicultural interests, it is useful to know what influences language study. For students coming to America it is simple necessity. English is the language of instruction. For Americans going abroad, two factors are overwhelmingly important: Economic incentives and graduation or college entry requirements. Abroad, second languages are studied because they are useful, on a daily basis and for a lifetime of work and pleasure. As a consequence, schools abroad require second and even third languages. Few schools do in the States. But when they doas is the case in Maryland over the past decadeenrollments skyrocketed.

Why is early language study important? To slightly recast the famous judicial dictum, language study delayed is language study denied. Without a thorough grounding in the early years, it is almost impossible to acquire enough language to be proficient as a college student. Unhappily, there is another force at work in America, worse even than indifference to language studyantipathy toward it. A mix of anti-intellectualism and nativism further inhibits language acquisition.

Unhappily, even though the numbers are improving, there is still not an adequate sense that Americans think that study abroad is terribly important; consider the fact that in 1998-99 46,406 Japanese were studying in the U.S. (a 10% increase over 1991-92 when 42,849 were). While a record number of Americans2,285 were studying in Japan in 1998-99 (a near doubling from the 1,225 Americans studying in Japan in 1991-92) the absolute increase was not great.

That the overall trends are not as strong as one might like does not diminish the fact that isolated secular trends are most promising, suggesting that policy can make a difference. For example, the AIFS Foundation study abroad program in Georgia (USA), co-funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation, has tripled study abroad percentages from 0.5% to 1.5% in three short years. Georgia Higher Education Chancellor Stephen Portch intends to increase this percentage in the second three years of the program.

But if policy can make a difference at the institutional level (and at the national level among "sending" countries) it is not the source of significant differences at the national level in the U.S. Study abroad patterns, both coming and going, reveal an asymmetry that is quite startling: Big trade imbalances inversely correlate with study abroad. Americans are less likely to study in the country with a trade surplus and that country's nationals are more likely to be studying in the U.S.

In discussing these issues with experts in the field, the assertion repeatedly surfaces that a major problem is institutional lethargy and professorial indifference to study abroad. To the extent this is true, it underlines this essay's major pointculture tells, and American culture has little interest in foreign culture. Neither economic nor intellectual motives have had enough power to overcome cultural indifference to foreign study. So far.

Times are changing, however, and particularly with solid leadership and enhanced public-private partnerships the process of change can be accelerated. GOALS 2000, signed into law by President Clinton March 30, 1994, put pressure on the nation's schools to improve their academic performance. As it has turned out, more important than GOALS 2000 which was never fully fundedhas been the response of the states. In the past five years, 49 states and the District of Columbia have created standards in the four core areas: English, math, science and social science. Only Iowa has not (with some of the highest test scores in the nation it is not surprising that the Buckeyes are sanguine about academic performance).

Most important has been the emergence of Achieve, a public-private partnership of six Corporate Chief Executive Officers (CEO's) (led by IBM's Louis Gerstner) and six governors (led by Tommy Thompson (R-WI)). Among other things, Achieve has remained steadfastly nonpartisan and has created a compelling web site,, which is home to 40 sets of state standards (and six sets of foreign standards) in two core areas, English and math. The other nine participating states will soon have their standards posted, and the other two core areasscience and social science will soon be posted as well. The power of the web site is not just that it contains standards in one place, but they can be rigorously compared and contrasted for coverage, depth and rigor. It is not too much to assert that Achieve is fast creating de facto national standards (as I did in an article of that title that appeared in Education Week). In short, while much remains to be done, much has been accomplished.

Indeed, at this point there is a page to be taken from a British book. Sir Cyril Taylor, founder Chairman of the American Institute For Foreign Study, has pioneered Technology Colleges Trust initiative in Great Britain. Public/private partnerships at their best, the 550 Technology Colleges (which are publicly funded nonselective secondary schools for the 11 to 18 age group) are institutions with a track record. While they do not have a direct bearing on study abroad, their structure does. They out-perform other schools with similar student populations by over a quarter in test schools; most important, public funding is contingent upon gaining private contributions, a circumstance that puts some starch into the school's program and operations. If they are not successful institutions, they will lose their specialist school designation. They have no choice but to succeed, a lesson American schools should take to heart. (For details, see

While foreign language study may not be sufficient to induce study abroad, either among Americans or foreign students coming here, it is necessary. It enables study abroad. It puts it within intellectual reach. It opens doors and creates opportunities that are otherwise denied. Finally, if it is not sufficient, it is a necessary precondition to study abroad. Equally important, it is a necessary precondition to being educated. As Cardinal Newman, 19th-century author of the timeless treatise The Uses of The University would argue were he alive today, language study is valuable in and of itself.

Language study aside, the case for study abroad is so self-evidently strong that it is time for policies to dramatically increase them: Two come to mind, in addition to the Coca-Cola/AIFS Foundation initiative in Atlanta. First would be a Land Grant College Act for the 21st-century, emphasizing language and area studies; and, second, encouraging our trading partners running large surpluses to offer study abroad opportunities for Americans. But just as there is no "one" solution to why so few American study abroad there are several avenues that should be explored concurrently.

More needs to be known about barriers to study abroad, both real and imagined, and students, their families and their professors need to be better informed.

In addition, serious surveys of the employing community should be undertaken to develop a thorough economic rationale; student (and even faculty) focus groups would be useful to get at the question of attitudes toward study abroad, particularly in those institutions with low participation rates; and at the state and local level, there should be a strong push to develop thematic high schools with a multicultural emphasis, such as the International Baccalaureate program.

One aspect of education technologycontent delivery is especially significant in this context. It has the potential to transform both language and area studies. High quality and effective courseware, particularly designed for asynchronous learning, will have an enormous impact. In language study alone, more students around the world are studying English as a second language (as indeed countless thousands are in the United States). High quality, highly effective self-guiding ESL courseware cannot be far off.

In the six years since the first edition of this essay, the national push for high academic standards, including several years of second language study, is bearing fruit; the emergence of radically restructured elementary and high schools; the continued importance of American higher education as a world resource; the emerging role of education technology; nascent bilingualism and biculturalism in major population centers and regions; increasing globalization of the post-industrial, knowledge-based economy; increasing tourism; and, most important, the growing recognition that knowledge of other languages and cultures has real economic valueall of these trends indicate that American provincialism may finally be on the wane.

In this connection, there are further lessons from abroad. The record of the schools in the Technology Colleges Trust program started by Sir Cyril Taylor is nothing short of breathtaking. Specialist schools in this group have improved their results dramatically. The number of students earning A to C grades in the British National General Certificate of Education examinations at age 16 has climbed from 43% in 1994 to 52% in 1999, an increase of 21%, double the rate of increase for other state funded schools. The proof of the pudding is to be found in the number of applications to attend such schools: Two out of three are oversubscribed.

In conclusion, then, although the American experience in foreign study has been limited, a reinvigorated "study abroad" community can pull together with confidence. It can seize the moment.

Practical recommendations are:

Recommendation 1: Orchestrate Study Abroad

Study abroad, though it has international economic and cultural implications, is at its best as a person-to-person and institution-to-institution activity, and the opportunities it presents are best seized by the leaders of America's most distinguished institutions. The International 50 universities should be the model for the nation in general while the Coca- Cola/AIFS Foundation program in Georgia offers a specific model. The most effective way to get this message across is to create a broadly based higher education task force to orchestrate study abroad, to identify barriers and create opportunities to expedite and increase study abroad. No other actors in the study abroad process are better positioned than the leaders of American higher education.

One would hope that the President's and Education Secretary's recent calls for enhanced international education will produce a coordinated, accountable task force to orchestrate more overseas study be Americans.

Recommendation 2: Seize the Moment

Two major activities fall within the White House's purview, whoever occupies it: A "bully pulpit" and the focal point for government policy toward study abroad. First, the "bully pulpit:" Raise the alarm, exhort, cajole, reassure, mobilize. Whether the issue is Mr. Gore's interest in the "information highway" and "reinventing" government, or Mr. Bush's abiding interest in hemispheric relations, the lesson is clear: It is time to emphasize internationalism both through study and travel abroad.

Second, the White House should be encouraged to take the lead in streamlining and rationalizing the federal rules and regulations that have a bearing on study abroad. The emphasis should be on more than removing barriers; it should create incentives and rewards for study abroad. It is time for a 21st century analogue of the Land Grant Colleges of the 19th century: Federal funding of a "global education" initiative should be the next step.

The White House should take the lead in negotiations with our trading partners (with whom we are running large deficits) to facilitate study abroad in those countries. Once upon a time, in the days of extensive U.S. foreign aid, counterpart funds were used in developing countries to underwrite U.S. study abroad. (Counterpart funds were local currencies symbolically set aside to compensate for U.S. imports the host country could not afford; the local currencies could not be expatriated to the U.S., but could be spent locally for approved activities. Such was the genius of the Fulbright program.) Exploratory conversations about using the vast dollar overhang in the PRC, Japan and China to underwrite partial scholarships for American study abroad should begin. No program could be better calculated to increase good will and mutual understanding than scholarships for Americans to study abroad.

Recommendation 3: Document the Economic Impact

Open Doors presents a compelling general case about the economic impact of foreign students in the U.S., as does the NAFSA study. Both organizations are to be commended for their efforts. But now is the time for more fine-grained work. For example, there is little in the way of detail about the long-term impact of foreign students; similarly, there is little research about the impact on American students who study abroad. It is time to undertake a more complete study of the economic impact of knowledge of other cultures and languages for an American audience. As a pragmatic people we must find empirical answers to the question: What is the value added of study abroad? Would that exhortations were sufficient, but they clearly are not. Not even professorswho should know betteruniversally support study abroad. A carefully framed and executed study of the impact of study abroadcurrent and anticipatedcould begin to inform students and their advisors systematically.

Recommendation 4: Spread the Word

In addition to enlisting higher education in the cause of study abroad, a national public information campaign should be launched to inform the American public. So few Americans are competent in a multicultural setting that the nation bears a heavy burden of ignorance. Diplomacy, statecraft, military obligations as well as trade and commerce require multicultural competence. PSA's and even commercial advertising (sponsored by the travel industry, for example) have a wide reach and can communicate the simple but important knowledge that "it's a big world out there and the more you know about it the better."

Recommendation 5: Eliminate "Administrivia"

Empanelling study abroad administrators to document the problem and offer guidance for institutions could help sweep away the bureaucratic cobwebs. Study abroad is made less accessible, even inaccessible, by the classic bureaucratic tangle of indifference, ignorance and proceduralism. Too many institutions of higher education make study abroad awkward and difficultoccasionally impossibleexcept for all but the most dedicated students. The problems are numerous, even if they are individually not great: Fear of tuition export plagues some institutions; the financial aid maze is difficult to negotiate, particularly in institutions with severely limited resources; transfer of grades is usually not permitted, reducing the incentive to go abroad and the incentive to study hard when abroad; limiting courses that can be applied to the major from foreign institutions further inhibits study abroad. Uniform policies and high visibility support for study abroad would make it easier and more widely practiced.

Recommendation 6: Recognize the Implications of the Standards Revolution

For all its fanfare, GOALS 2000 was voluntary. Since then TIMSS and TIMSS-R have attracted widespread attention. TIMSS (the Third International Math and Science Study, and its successor, now in progress, TIMSS R (repeat)) have changed the nature of the debate. Particularly among older students, TIMSS reveals shockingly low levels of American academic preparation and TIMMS R is not likely to reveal much improvement; put simply, American fourth graders do well in international comparisons; eighth graders are in the middle of the pack; twelfth graders bring up the rear. And while TIMMS data is not longitudinal (it does not test the same cohort over time) the fact that older students do less well than younger students is hardly reassuring. Not to put too fine a point on it, America is the only country whose test scores decline over the grades. The data emerging from the Technology College Trust program in the UK provides a much needed counterpoint; in the TCT program, test scores have climbed dramatically, a development that should be duly noted in the U.S.

The AIFS Foundation: Might play a constructive role in high schools across the country by encouraging them to implement high academic standards with an eye to its international implications. Direct encouragement for secondary schools to raise their sights to "world-class standards" will put pressure from the bottom-up on higher education, something that has never occurred before in America.

An option available to every school district of any size is the implementation of International Baccalaureate programs, creation of magnet or charter schools; schools organized around international or multicultural themes and the like. While they are "naturals" in port of entry cities, they would fit in any community in the nation. Study abroad would be a logical part of their curriculum.

Recommendation 7: Increase Academic Rigor. Require Second Language Mastery as a Condition of Graduation from High School

Six years ago GOALS 2000 called for world-class standards across the curriculum for elementary and secondary schools; the call has been heeded unevenly. Standards are now in place in 49 states, and while they are not uniformly high, they reflect a genuine and lasting commitment to academic excellence. Historically, the nation's best colleges and universities have been "gatekeepers" of quality for elementary and secondary schools. The pace set by the best of higher education was the pace met by the institutions that feed into them. The single most important thing the nation's leading colleges and universities could do to stimulate internationalism is to do as our trading partners do: Require second language study. By language study I mean to explicitly include mastery of corresponding multicultural knowledge. Indeed, language study is a proxy for multicultural knowledge.

More than "exposure" to a second or third language should be required; requiring mastery would put teeth into the requirement as it rationalized different ways to demonstrate competence. Native speakers of languages other than English would benefit, as would second language speakers who had learned outside the traditional neighborhood school, by independent study or study abroad, for example.

Such requirements are the norm among our trading partnersindeed, mastery of two foreign languages is commonly requires abroad. We should expect no less at home.