Letters to the Editor

International-Education Programs Should Be Continued

June 01, 2011

To the Editor:

Mark Montgomery's piece cheering budget cuts for the Department of Education's Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs ("America's International-Education Programs Need a 21st-Century Makeover," The Chronicle, May 5) cries out for correction on several counts. His critique is based on information that is old, incomplete, and in some instances just plain wrong; the programs have evolved substantially since the legislation was first passed in 1958.

Mr. Montgomery writes that three Title VI programs (National Resource Centers, Language Resource Centers, and Centers for International Business Education) "provide excellent resources for advanced research" and suggests that the resources developed over the years now suffice—not acknowledging that all (including the grants to the University of Denver, where he once worked) are primarily training programs that annually impact thousands of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as in-service teachers. He does not even mention the competitive Title VI fellowship program for students who combine study of less commonly taught languages with training in a wide variety of disciplines and professions, or that a significant number of the fellowship program's awardees eventually enter government service.

Nor does Mr. Montgomery appear to fully understand the nature of current Title VI funding for these centers. For the National Resource Center programs, with which I am most familiar, successful applicants must now demonstrate substantial long-term university commitment. Their modest federal funding has been crucial in maintaining less commonly taught language courses—resources that are essential for continued training in critically important foreign languages whose enrollments may be insufficient for continuing university coverage without outside help. The National Resource Center budgets (from Title VI) may also offer temporary incentives for course coverage in key but often neglected disciplines (in liberal arts and professional schools) related to the center's focus; they provide essential funding for outreach to K-12 and postsecondary education and to business and other communities.

Mr. Montgomery does not name the International Research and Studies program, although he does criticize two projects, presumably funded by the program, that could add to foreign-language teachers' pedagogy resource options. Does he really expect that all research grants are sure to produce immediate, game-changing results? Long-term impact is always difficult to estimate when projects are initiated, as are future needs for instructional materials in the 100-200 less commonly taught languages that the program was designed to meet. The longstanding International Research and Studies program, combined with the more recently initiated Language Resource Center program, has produced basic teaching materials in many languages as well as much work on language pedagogy and on enrollment surveys that are crucial documents for language-policy planning.

If Mr. Montgomery's work was funded by the Title VI International Research and Studies program in recent years, he would know that dissemination plans are a part of its application-review process. In fact, for my recent (Title VI/IRS-funded) work on international content in the undergraduate curriculum for K-12 teachers, "marketing" efforts were partially grant-funded, facilitating the study's contributions to planning efforts in a number of teacher-training organizations. Similarly, our widely distributed 1999 (Title VI/IRS-funded) evaluation of the Title VI Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language program not only demonstrated an unusually high degree of success, but was also widely distributed, with recommended criteria for future evaluation and development.

Indeed, Mr. Montgomery appears to be unaware of the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language program's existence. Initiated in 1972, it has provided seed money for development of international and foreign-language-studies curricula in more than 1,000 programs at the full range of postsecondary institutions, including community colleges. The Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language program, like others in the Title VI and Fulbright-Hays mix, is one that can prepare students for an overseas experience. Yet the Department of Education has just announced that its fiscal-year 2011 competition for this program, like the Title VI research program, is canceled because of the 40-percent cut for all Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs. Is this really the kind of "repurposing" that Mr. Montgomery recommends?

There is little question that the programs that Mr. Montgomery does want to strengthen (including more experience abroad for students) can contribute to improved American global competence, but their success depends on maintaining the international-education infrastructure that has been developed under the several interrelated Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs. The full complement of Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs—a mere 0.2-percent of the Department of Education's initial fiscal-year 2011 budget—has provided essential foundations for all programs preparing an internationally-aware citizenry, and must be continued.

Ann Imlah Schneider

The writer is a consultant specializing in international education.