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Language Learning in the 21st Century

On March 29, 2011, CED President Charles Kolb participated in a panel discussion with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills at a policy briefing and classroom demonstration illustrating the need for a national priority on language learning. Kolb cited the CED report Education for Global Leadership and gave the business perspective on the importance of global competence and language training in order for American students to compete in an internationally competitive workforce. He emphasized that “making the investment in language learning is a good use of taxpayer money.”

Other panelists included Barbara Mondloch and Bret Lovejoy of ACTFL; Timothy Magner of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills; Carola McGiffert, Senior Advisor, Bureau of East Asian & Pacific Affairs, US Department of State; Tony Jackson, Vice President for Education, Asia Society; and Scott Braband, Assistant Superintendent, Fairfax County Public Schools. 

As US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has stated, “We must improve language learning and international education at all levels if our nation is to continue to lead in the global economy; to help bring security and stability to the world; and to build stronger and more productive ties with our neighbors.”

In order for America to succeed in the 21st century, our students must receive a well-rounded education that includes high-quality language learning. While the rest of the world is becoming increasingly multilingual, the US is lagging behind. As we move to reform education in this country, the US must continue to learn from the best practices of other countries in order to deliver a world-class education that prepares American graduates to be linguistically literate and culturally competent.