Department of State news

Exchange and study abroad opportunities provide young Vietnamese and their country with a bright future, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently noted in Hanoi, Vietnam, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Vietnam’s Fulbright Program.

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine expressed her wish to see more American students studying and interning in India, in a recent interview with Forbes India. The Department of State is planning to increase the number of U.S. students in India (currently 3,300) to 15,000 in five years through its Passport to India initiative.

Talking about how to achieve this ambitious goal, Sonenshine said:

People-to-people relationships between the citizens of the U.S. and India, forged in part through educational and cultural exchanges, lie at the heart of the U.S.-India partnership, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine and Indian Ambassador to the United States Nirupama Rao agreed in a recent web chat moderated by Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Ambassador Robert Blake.

On various occasions during her recent travels to Southeast Asia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton underlined how important people-to-people exchanges are to building close ties between the United States and South-East Asian countries.

Speaking at the U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Clinton expressed the U.S.’ commitment to deepening our “people-to-people engagement,” explaining that:

“Brilliant, fearless, and passionate” is how Suzanne Philion, Senior Advisor for Innovation at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), described the Department of State’s inaugural class of 25 TechGirls from the Middle East and North Africa, who arrived in the U.S. in late June.

In a video message recorded on the occasion of the third EducationUSA Forum, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once more underlined the importance of bringing international students to the United States for study and the critical work of the EducationUSA Advising Centers in more than 170 across the globe.

The Department of State issued a new guidance directive this afternoon (available here; direct to PDF here), clarifying the visa status of Chinese teachers at campus-based Confucius Institutes. Specifically, the directive states that Chinese language teachers “sponsored by university or college sponsors who are teaching at primary or secondary schools are not required to depart the United States at the end of this academic year, unless that was their intended date of departure.”

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Wang Yongli, deputy chief executive of the Office of Chinese Language Council International, said he was “taken by surprise and quite shocked” by the release last week of a State Department directive that would require all Chinese-language schoolteachers affiliated with campus-based Confucius Institutes and holding J-1 visas to leave the country within weeks, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

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The Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee funded educational and cultural exchange programs at $625 million for FY 2013, $38 million above the President’s FY13 request and $26.2 million above the final FY 2012 appropriation for exchanges of $598.8 million.

While some of the statistics were grim (e.g., only 8 per cent of U.S. undergraduates study a foreign language, half of what it was in 1965), hope for the future was abundant as students, teachers, and international education leaders testified yesterday at a hearing titled “A National Security Crisis: Foreign Language Capabilities in the Federal Government.” That hopefulness seemed to culminate with the testimony of Shauna Kaplan, a 5th grader at Providence Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia, who confidently spoke to hearing chair Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) in Chinese and neatly offered a call to action by proclaiming, in her second language:

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