SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today marked International Education Week by announcing the creation of the first-ever International High School Program in Illinois, an initiative that will help students better understand and use the economic, historic and cultural links our state shares with other countries.
The governor also proclaimed November 16 as “International Education Day in Illinois.” The International High School Program will be open to all high schools in the state, regardless of enrollment or the availability in-house of foreign languages and other classes relevant to international studies. High schools that take part in the program will be able to hold the designation “international high school.” International Education Week in the United States is November 12 – 16.
“The goal of this program is to better prepare tomorrow’s leaders and business people for a world that is more and more culturally diverse,” Ryan said. “Our economy is more and more international. Because of enhanced communications and transportation, the barriers that have kept countries apart are being lowered. The International High School program will prepare Illinois students for these challenges.”
The governor added that the terrorist attacks of September 11 have pointed out the need for future generations to be better versed in the languages, customs, economies and issues of other nations.
The International High School Program is the product of a task force that the governor appointed more than a year ago to develop the concept. The other major part of the state’s international education strategy, the Illinois International Career Academy, convened its first class this summer on the campus of the Illinois Math and Science Academy.
Ryan has sought an expanded emphasis on international education since his days as lieutenant governor. Ryan was instrumental in the formation of the Illinois Consortium for International Education, which includes 114 public and private colleges, universities and community colleges. The consortium’s budget is $725,000.
Under the International High School Program, schools will identify and strengthen existing courses that already enhance learning about other countries. Teachers also will modify classes with appropriate materials and subject matter on international issues. Small schools that lack foreign languages, or urban schools that do not teach agricultural economics, can fill those gaps in the program on-line using courses available through the Illinois Virtual High School and the Illinois Virtual Campus.
Ryan noted that a greater understanding of international issues and the cultures, history, geography and economies of other countries is especially important for the future of the state and national economy. Illinois is one of the nation’s leaders in exports. The state’s international sales total $40 billion and create about 600,000 jobs. One out of every eight jobs in Illinois depends on exports.
“It is my hope that exposing students to global issues, languages and cultures through this program will help position Illinois to better compete in the expanding global marketplace.”