Global Learning Connections – What does it mean for our children?

Posted by Caterina Cregor Blitzer on

Our children’s opportunities to learn about the world begin at home and in our school communities. All children benefit from learning a language starting early, and making global connections. I communicate in English, Italian, French, German and Spanish today because my American father and Italian mother encouraged me to continue studying and loving Italian as I learned English in school.

I learned by their example, while living on and off U.S. Army bases in Italy, Austria,  Germany, and the U.S.,  to respect people of all backgrounds and engage with many different cultures. I returned to Trieste, Italy as a teenager for the transformative experience of study abroad. Arriving in Indianapolis at age eighteen, I was ready to seek out the best that our public schools and universities have to offer a young person interested in world languages and global connections.

Indiana is home to myriad cultures and languages ready to be explored. According to the 2011 American Community Survey the state’s foreign-born population totaled 307,194, accounting for approximately 5 percent of Indiana’s population. This share of the population has seen consistent increases since 2000. In fact, about half (49 percent) of Indiana’s foreign born are fairly new to the country, entering the U.S. in the year 2000 or later. Nearly half of the foreign-born population hails from Latin America.

Leading countries of birth for Indiana’s recent immigrants are: Burma, Mexico, India, China, Philippines, Nigeria, Thailand, United Kingdom, Vietnam, and Canada. Immigration is mirrored in the number of Limited English Proficient (LEP) students enrolled in Indiana schools: in 2013-2014 there were 59,170 students representing 263 native languages other than English. Spanish was the native language of about 80% of these students. Opportunities to engage with international, immigrant and refugee organizations abound in communities large and small.

Thanks to Senate Enrolled Act 267, Indiana educators will soon have an opportunity to apply for competitive grants to develop new dual language immersion programs starting in Kindergarten or First grade. Indiana is the ninth state in the nation to recognize high school graduates demonstrating proficiency in English and advanced proficiency in another language with a certificate of biliteracy, providing employers with a method of identifying individuals with language and biliteracy skills and postsecondary educational institutions with an additional method to recognize applicants for admission.

All sectors of Indiana’s economy are impacted by the global economy. Indiana ranked 14th in the nation in terms of the number of foreign owned companies. These 144,900 businesses account for 6 percent of Indiana’s total private sector employment. The top ten source countries are: Japan, Canada, Italy, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Austria, Netherlands, China and Switzerland.

Indiana ranks 16th in the value of exports by state ($34.2 billion) and ranks 12th in the dependence of the state’s economy on exports. Indiana’s globally active firms and international organizations offer students living laboratories to experience the languages and knowledge of the world they are learning in our classrooms. Every Indiana citizen may be interested in the data found on the Mapping the Nation site, an educational and advocacy tool developed by the Longview Foundation for International Understanding and the Asia Society Partnership for Global Learning.

Many Indiana schools actively participate in international student and teacher exchange programs. Indiana ranks in the top ten states for both the number of international students in post-secondary institutions, and international high school students. Top countries sending students to the US for high school study are: Germany, Brazil, Italy, Thailand, Norway, China, Denmark, South Korea and Japan.

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz reenergized the Global Learning and World Languages programs to benefit all Indiana schools. She has successfully led efforts to increase funding for English Learning and Migrant Programs and is the first Superintendent of Public Instruction to launch a partnership for exchange programs with Indiana’s sister state, Zhejiang Province, China. It is an honor to collaborate on the Global Learning and World Languages work that aligns with the DOE mission: Build an education system of equity and high quality focused on student-centered accountability.

Preparing our students for work and citizenship in the Global Age requires providing Indiana students with knowledge of the world economy, understanding of other cultures and the ability to communicate and work with others across national and regional boundaries.

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 A native of Trieste, Italy, Cathy earned a B.A. in French, Italian and German at Indiana University, an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin and teaching certificate from Butler University.  She has held leadership roles in the public and private sector in international economic development, international education and international services.

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