Americans Assert Importance of International Education

Survey Results Indicate Americans view foreign languages and global knowledge as important to future careers

Even in the face of job loss and other economic woes, a majority of Americans believe that international education is essential to the educational experience as a whole and a necessity for Americans wishing to be competitive in the global marketplace. This desire to remain globally competitive has many Americans concluding that investment in international education initiatives is worthwhile, in spite of calls for fiscal austerity.

In November 2010, on the eve of the midterm elections, a NAFSA-commissioned survey polled a broad cross-section of approximately 1,000 Americans on their views towards international education.  Specific topics included the importance of foreign language education, study abroad and the recruitment of international students and scholars to America’s shores.

The results of this survey indicate that Americans understand the importance of learning other languages, regardless of the still-widespread use of the English language around the globe. Two-thirds of Americans believe that if young Americans do not learn a foreign language, they will be at a competitive disadvantage.  Similarly, 57% of Americans recognize the importance of study abroad, agreeing that it is a vital component of an education that prepares today’s students for success in the global workplace.

Acquiring global knowledge also needs to happen at home, Americans say. Nearly 75% of those surveyed recognize that teaching American college students about the rest of the world about the rest of the world is critical to honing their competitive advantage. Attracting educational professionals from across the globe to live and work in the United States also plays an important role in broadening Americans’ exposure to other cultures and ideas.

Finally, despite the current contentious immigration debate, nearly 50% of Americans support making it easier for those abroad to come and live and work in the United States, when told about the benefits of attracting foreign educators to U.S. shores. Survey respondents were informed that without attracting talent from foreign shores, it could become difficult for many colleges and universities to put a qualified teacher in each and every classroom.

This survey reveals that Americans consider international education to be a priority, even in these tough economic times. The majority of Americans consider international education to be vitally important to U.S. competitive in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world.

Check out the survey results at

If you are interested in sharing this information with your elected officials, please visit Connecting Our World to learn how to do so.