Idea 3: reframe the problem as a K-20 issue and address it at all levels

In order to make study abroad an essential part of what it means to be educated, student and family expectations must be addressed at a much younger age. Teachers are key influencers who can help students understand the importance of global awareness early on, and inspire them to be curious about and engaged in the world.

  • Develop a grassroots campaign focused on K-12 with very specific objectives and outreach (including straightforward, clear messages) for elementary and secondary schools.
  • Convene Think Tanks for K-8 and 9-12 separately to identify the road blocks to change and then a way forward. 
  • Work with as many K-12 associations, organizations and groups as possible to join the commitment and spread the word about the importance of an international experience as part of K-20 education; present and sponsor sessions at the many conferences for these associations and organizations. 
  • Train secondary school counselors on the value, relevance and necessity of international education and study abroad opportunities for all students, including FAQs on cost, curriculum and culture.
  • Create clear, concise and interesting materials (toolkits) that reach a diverse audience for secondary school teachers and counselors to use to spark curiosity and interest in study abroad, international engagement and greater global awareness.
  • Leverage diverse study abroad alumni to speak to student and parent groups during high school and the “transition to college” and ensure that they explain key steps to take: 1) Plan and prepare to study abroad, 2) Do the research to help you choose location and program wisely, and 3) Use study abroad to advance your college and professional career (not just fun).
  • Create short-term, intensive international programs for teachers to enable them to experience study abroad first hand.
  • Encourage high schools to work with students to have them get passports at graduation, before heading off to college or technical school. 
  • Build bridges between foreign students in the U.S. and local K-12 schools to share language and culture so as to be mutually beneficial.
  • Pitch the idea of a study abroad adventure to Sesame Street and other popular cable / TV shows, even video games, to begin to get the messages into mainstream culture.
  • Support education faculty and organizations, such as Global Teacher Education (GTE), advocating for a global education component and “student teach abroad” training for all newly certified teachers.

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This blog entry summarizes Idea 3 of 11 “Big Ideas” brainstormed during IIE’s Generation Study Abroad Think Tank event in March 2014. They are compiled in the IIE Green Paper, “What will it take to Double Study Abroad?”