If the World is Flat, What are We Still Doing in Cambridge?

author: Allan Goodman, Institute of International Education
published: July 29, 2013,   recorded: April 2008,   views: 21
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At the very moment when “we have to confront the opportunity or challenge of globalization,” says Allan Goodman, higher education appears woefully unprepared. The world is not ‘flat’ for the vast majority of college students.

Only 30 of 192 U.N. member states boast enrollments of international students at levels that exceed 1%. In the U.S., it is a little over 3%. Of the 2.7 million international students, 600 thousand come to the U.S. -- most hoping to end up at Harvard, according to Goodman. They are distributed among just 150 schools, usually in very small numbers. This is bad news, because “never has there been a more difficult time for us in the world,” says Goodman, and education exchange broadens not just the “knowledge enterprise” but enhances the image of both host and origin country.

Goodman worries about a shortfall in capacity, as developing countries graduate students from secondary schools with no, few or bad choices for college. The U.S. has 4000 accredited higher education institutions, 1/3rd of all such institutions in the world, and employs 2/3rds of the world’s faculty. Cairo University has 250 thousand students, many of whom have never seen a professor or entered a classroom. By the end of this decade, one university in Nanjing will have a million students, but won’t have enough space to educate them. It’s no wonder there’s increasing pressure to come to the U.S. for an education. Who is going to teach the 200 million or so people who will be trying to attend universities by 2025, wonders Goodman. That will be the “single biggest challenge for educators everywhere, whether you’re in Cambridge, Chile or China.”

MIT and other world-class universities should develop their own multilateral foreign policy, says Goodman, enabling students to enter from all over the world, and for U.S. students to study elsewhere. 75% of Americans currently don’t have passports; foreign language study, from elementary school through college, is no longer required. This must change, says Goodman. U.S. students and older scholars who travel to other parts of the world “can be genuine voices of our society and culture,” perhaps staying to “build a bridge in China” or cars in Germany. They might even help develop educational resources in another country, serving the rising tide of students overseas. It’s time to change the paradigm, says Goodman: “I think we should aspire to say, to be educated in America means you need to have international (study) as part of your education.”

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