Public Diplomacy

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has reiterated in recent weeks that she will not stay on at the State Department during President Obama’s second term. For some, this announcement has “unleashed…waves of speculation about her plans,” as detailed in this recent Washington Post profile about the possible paths she will take in the future. Current theories include a period of “hibernation” before a 2016 Presidential bid; the creation of her own women’s rights initiative; or (perhaps unlikely but still possible) retirement.

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The Department of Education recently released its “first-ever, fully articulated international strategy” designed to advance two strategic goals: strengthening U.S. education and advancing the U.S.’ international priorities. The strategy, which focuses on the next four years, recognizes that it is no longer enough to teach American students only reading, writing, mathematics, and science skills; rather, students must also have “the skills and disposition to engage globally,” as well as “the ability to think critically and creatively to solve complex problems.”

The Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) on Wednesday launched its TechWomen2012 initiative, which will bring 42 women from eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa to the U.S. for a period of five weeks. While in the U.S., the women—who all work in the technology sectors in their home countries that include Algeria, Jordan, and Yemen—will be engaged in a mentoring program with their U.S. counterparts.

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:

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report yesterday critical of the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP), saying that the program lacks processes to identify risk and prevent fraud, and does not have proper controls to verify the legitimacy of schools that accept international students. SEVP is responsible for certifying schools to accept international students in academic and vocational programs, as well as managing the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which assists the Department of Homeland Security in tracking and monitoring certified schools and international students.

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 Obama Administration’s strong rhetoric in support of international education and exchange does not always match with reality, and is described by some to be “superficial,” according to an article in yesterday’s Chronicle of Higher Education:

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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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A State Department policy directive issued last week (and reported on yesterday by the Alliance) asserted that campus-based Confucius Institutes must be part of the sponsoring college’s foreign-language program or apply for separate accreditation. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports today that the Department of State has called that section of the directive “confusing” and said it would be “redrafted to clarify that Confucius Institutes that have partnerships with accredited colleges are in compliance with visa regulations.”

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