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If your goal is an internationally competitive education for your children...what does that look like? My kids are young so this is something my spouse and I are actively discussing right now as we form our educational goals and methodology. 

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If your goal is an internationally competitive education for your children...what does that look like?

 

I orient myself at the curriculum of a college prep school in Germany, and the very good (except for history) public school education I received myself. Working backwards from the admissions requirements of selective universities in the US gets to about the same point, with the exception of the weak foreign language requirements of even the top schools.

 

For an internationally competetive education, one should keep in mind that students elsewhere will study two foreign languages for many years (in my home country,  for 10 and 7 years respectively). Math is usually not compartmentalized into things like "algebra" and "geometry" and taught integrated, which allows an earlier introduction of concepts the US reserves for high school. In many countries, all students will be required to take the three core sciences.

 

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In my ideal world they'd write the international A-levels.

 

You could take a look at the A-level diploma (the international one, not the UK one) or the International Baccalaureate diploma.

 

The two main differences are that the United States separates out math (other people continue to just have math class rather than algebra/geometry/trig) and most countries start with the second language(s) much earlier.

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My husband is a European, so I'm just listing the things I notice Europeans are better at than Americans - 

 

Languages - At least one foreign language absolutely fluent, and one or two more with good reading comprehension. And this is in addition for those who learn their "standard" language on top of whatever local dialect they may have.

 

Greater attention to small details - This is what tripped me up the most when I studied in Europe. History studies there are almost exclusively oriented towards philology or textual criticism. Abstract thinking? Broad synthesis? Nope, not at all. At least, not until you've spent decades organizing and translating the entire corpus of a minor author in an obscure language. And then maybe. 

 

Practical skills - A school subject in middle school could be swimming, and they teach each and every person how to swim well and correctly.

 

Handwriting - Every person has a neat italic print. (Conversely, though, this is a problem for my DH, as he can not read the loopy cursive of most Americans).

 

Independence - Students leave school to eat lunch, then they go back to school. If school is too far to walk or bike to, they take a public bus. Most Europeans are shocked by how much Americans treat their kids like infants, and view the way public schools are run as something close to prisons.

 

My DH did "alternative" school due to an un-diagnosed LD, so I don't know particulars of curriculum progression or achievement in his country.

 

Competitiveness doesn't really come down to test scores, exactly, in an international setting. Solid abilities, self-assurance, and flexibility are probably more important.

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We are trying for this...

 

- Languages - very strong language/grammar skills, preferably in 3 languages.  Usually there is at least a basic understanding of Latin for those on the university track. 

 

- Large general knowledge base - everyone here seems to have an excellent general knowledge level across most domains.  My husband can name the leader of practically any country I mention, and give a brief sketch of their political system.  He keeps this up by reading the paper on a daily basis, and so his general knowledge stays current.  I, on the other hand, read The Hunger Games in the evenings...  sigh.  :-)  He now has our 7 year old listening to the nightly international news on the radio. 

 

My husband claims he is "no good" at math, despite the fact that he has taken and passed calculus.  This is simply the level expected of anyone going on to university, even in the liberal arts. 

 

I would say our emphasis is going to be on languages and broad knowledge.  Specialization will come at university, if that is where the kids' aptitudes lie.  I really, truly appreciate the value placed here on all career fields- there is no "shame" in going to technical or trade school, and we would be very proud of our kids should they go that route instead of university.  I think it's important to recognize that an "international" education does not necessarily mean preparing someone to work internationally, though it can mean that as well. 

 

 

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I agree with NASDAQ. Google CIE - Cambridge International exams. They have a wonderful selection of advanced coursework.

 

Ruth in NZ

 

The only thing I would say is that the criteria are very strict.  For example, if the syllabus says you have to study Macbeth or Hamlet, you can't study King Lear, because the exam questions won't match up.

 

L

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Do you have any information about how this works in practical terms that you would be willing to share?

 

My kids are young, so I haven't done much digging yet. We have an IB international school in the city. Can one generally sit for the exams without having attended school?  The only thing I know about this is that an acquaintance of mine attended an American school (in China) but then also had to take IB exams elsewhere to be accepted into the university of her choice. This led me to conclude that the exams are open to anyone. Am I wrong?

 

Normally, you have to be in an IB school to take IB exams - they are not open to external candidates.  There might be some movement on this, however, but I haven't been following it closely.  There is talk of setting up online courses, but I'm not sure to whom they will be available.

 

Calvin's experience with the IB has been very good, but it has all been in school.  I will say though that the UK system feeds well into it: by the time, for example, you start doing biology in the IB diploma programme, you will have had two years of biology in school, so will have a good background - four years by the time you take the exams.  The horror stories that get reported about the workload for US students may be to do with the structure of US education (one science per year, for example, and a late start for foreign languages).

 

A levels can be taken by external candidates, if you can find a school/British Council office that will accept you.

 

L

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Regarding US and lameness in foreign language, from the corners of the US I have had exposure to, there is even a strong opposition to foreign language focus. There are areas where foreign language would actually be quite easy to encounter AND useful but there is a strong mentality in certain portions of the population that it is not English speaking U. S. Americans that should be investing in foreign language study. :-/ I don't know how prevalent that is throughout such a large population nation-wide or how much it actually affects education.

 

We had it pretty lame in (my part of) Australia, too. Three years of compulsory German, French, or Japanese, depending on which elementary school you attended (elective after that - and it occurred to me clarify that these were years 6 & 7 and then first year at high school, year 8) - two of those years (can't remember the third) were once per week classes and not all year long.

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Thanks, Laura. Another option would be to move to the UK in order to take A Levels. I am not sure if it is possible to do so right before taking the exams, or if one should attend college in the UK for the full duration of the course in order to make this happen. Again, my kids are only five and seven, so this explains my current ignorance — lots will probably change before they get to that stage. I do want to make sure my kids can attend university, though. 

 

You can take A levels as an external candidate without having studied at the school/college, assuming that the exam centre is interested in taking you. There is a problem with science subjects, if you are taking the UK A levels rather than the international versions: one of the exams for each science A level is a lab-based practical, and no school is going to let an outsider do that if s/he has not had previous experience/safety training.  I believe that there is one college that is doing an Easter course as prep. for exam taking, but I'm not up on the details.  Maybe look into it at a later date?

 

I guess I'm wondering if all European countries are the same and do things the same way.   It would be like me saying I'm a North American and that North Americans do things XYZ way.

 

All very different.

 

Well, the answer to that is obviously "no", and you can also say that "internationally competitive" is a rather vague term. I do think that English-speaking countries (including the UK, which is obviously in Europe) don't generally pay enough attention to foreign languages, while many European countries are pretty heavy on languages.

 

Yes - UK language learning is pretty useless.

 

L

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My kids hold EU passports, thanks to my DH, so I'd like them to be competitive in the US and the EU.  There's also a chance that we'll move to the UK at some point in their childhood, so I want them to be able to hit the ground running if dropped into a UK school.  Right now that corresponds to making sure that they meet the Key Stage requirements for their age group.  I'd also like to encourage a foreign language, which is tough here... right now all I can manage is an (incredibly expensive) French tutor once a week.  When the kids are a little bit older there will be more options for that.

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My kids hold EU passports, thanks to my DH, so I'd like them to be competitive in the US and the EU.  There's also a chance that we'll move to the UK at some point in their childhood, so I want them to be able to hit the ground running if dropped into a UK school.  Right now that corresponds to making sure that they meet the Key Stage requirements for their age group.  I'd also like to encourage a foreign language, which is tough here... right now all I can manage is an (incredibly expensive) French tutor once a week.  When the kids are a little bit older there will be more options for that.

 

As far as Key Stage guidelines: I would concentrate on English and maths.  Hobbes went into school at 10 without following the UK standards for science, foreign languages, history, geography....  No problems at all.  Similarly, Calvin went into school at 13 (to start GCSEs) with only his English, foreign languages and Maths having followed strict Key Stage requirements.  Again, no problem.  

 

L

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My husband is a European, so I'm just listing the things I notice Europeans are better at than Americans - 

 

Languages - At least one foreign language absolutely fluent, and one or two more with good reading comprehension. And this is in addition for those who learn their "standard" language on top of whatever local dialect they may have.

 

Greater attention to small details - This is what tripped me up the most when I studied in Europe. History studies there are almost exclusively oriented towards philology or textual criticism. Abstract thinking? Broad synthesis? Nope, not at all. At least, not until you've spent decades organizing and translating the entire corpus of a minor author in an obscure language. And then maybe. 

 

Practical skills - A school subject in middle school could be swimming, and they teach each and every person how to swim well and correctly.

 

Handwriting - Every person has a neat italic print. (Conversely, though, this is a problem for my DH, as he can not read the loopy cursive of most Americans).

 

Independence - Students leave school to eat lunch, then they go back to school. If school is too far to walk or bike to, they take a public bus. Most Europeans are shocked by how much Americans treat their kids like infants, and view the way public schools are run as something close to prisons.

 

With the exception of what you write about history and going home for lunch, the above was definitely true for my schooling in Germany.

 

 

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I always wondered why we are so lame here in the US with foreign language (I do want to say I cannot speak for everyone in the US or all places in the US regarding this, just MY personal experiences here).  But after going to some countries in Europe I have a better guess as to why.  For one thing, living in some places in Europe there is just a much better opportunity to use a foreign language.  One can even watch TV programs in various languages.  That is not the case here.  There is almost no opportunity to use a foreign language unless you really go out of your way to find others who speak it.  I know my husband kinda hoped he could find other German speakers.  We even joined a German club at one point.  Nobody there could even speak German. 

 

Oh give me a break. In the age of the internet you can watch any language TV if you seek it out. And most cities do have foreigners.

You even have a German speaker in your home, so you really can't blame your lack of fluency on not having an available conversation partner (I do not mean this as a personal attack, simply as an observation)

At any university campus, one has the opportunity to interact with students in many different languages - if one so choose.

This is not a problem of lacking opportunities, but of mindset. Which would also explain why it is very common for US military to return after several years overseas and have not learned the language of the country where they were stationed - lack of access to native speakers can not possibly be used as an excuse.

People here simply do not consider learning a foreign language important. If they did, they would make more of an effort.

 

FWIW, I learned English in a communist country where there really were NO English native speakers, where no teacher had ever been permitted to visit an English speaking country, where we had no access to English language films or audiobooks.

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I always wondered why we are so lame here in the US with foreign language (I do want to say I cannot speak for everyone in the US or all places in the US regarding this, just MY personal experiences here).  But after going to some countries in Europe I have a better guess as to why.  For one thing, living in some places in Europe there is just a much better opportunity to use a foreign language.  One can even watch TV programs in various languages.  That is not the case here.  There is almost no opportunity to use a foreign language unless you really go out of your way to find others who speak it.

 

 

 

Oh give me a break. In the age of the internet you can watch any language TV if you seek it out. And most cities do have foreigners.

 

Nice that you can, but we cannot.  Verizon's map of 4G coverage is optimistic, and cable and satellite have their own issues.

 

Internet has only been available in the last 10 years or so in speeds that work for video.  Some areas still do not have Internet that is good enough to watch a movie (ie. don't bother buying Netflix up here).  

 

Most Americans don't live in a big city, where people speak a foreign language.  Where I am now, I can pick up French radio, am, after dark.  That's it.  My cable TV does not have any foreign language programming. 

 

When we were in Europe, OTOH, we could flip through channels on the TV in several languages (German, French, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, English, Romansch) and easily pick up as many on the radio.  A half hour drive put us in another country.  A two hour drive brought us to another language.  Swim meets were announced in several languages (local meets for kids, not the Olympics).  In Europe, you don't have to "seek it out".

 

Attitudes and school requirements came from the decades during which most Americans had to travel for hours and spend hundreds of dollars to hear a foreign language outside of a classroom setting.  Most Americans had no need or opportunity to speak another language.   One would think that advances in air travel and the Internet would have lessened this but it hasn't.  Air travel is more onerous and expensive than ever and people generally don't go surfing through other languages on the Internet unless they are already studying/fluent in them.  

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Some international colleges won't consider a home-school diploma at all.  

 

The ones that do (that I've seen) require 5 AP tests (not including US Govt, US Hist, art, music, etc) and want a C-level diploma in the language of instruction.

 

I'm sure its all over the map just like college requirements in the US.

 

However,  looking at http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate_courses/international_applicants/international_qualifications/ shows Oxford's requirements. No mention of diplomas at all.. so presumably the same requirements for all Americans.

 

===

SAT Reasoning Test with at least 1,400 in Critical Reading and Mathematics and preferably also 700 or more in Writing, giving a combined score of at least 2,100

OR

ACT with a score of at least 32 out of 36.

 

AND

 

Grade 5 in three or more Advanced Placement Tests in appropriate subjects

OR

SAT Subject Tests in three appropriate subjects at 700 or better.

===

 

Which looks pretty straight forward and not that difficult for a school at that level. Now this just gets you to the interview stage but does show the basic expectations. The page also has a good overview of international credentials that are seen as roughly equivalent. US APs, IB, A-Levels, French Bac, etc etc.

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Which looks pretty straight forward and not that difficult for a school at that level. Now this just gets you to the interview stage but does show the basic expectations. The page also has a good overview of international credentials that are seen as roughly equivalent. US APs, IB, A-Levels, French Bac, etc etc.

 

Just as a point of information - that will get you to being considered for interview - it will not result in an automatic interview.  In addition to those grades (and before you are invited for interview) you need to submit extra essays that you will have written as part of your regular school work.  You also need to take extra Oxbridge-devised exams in the subjects that are your chosen majors, exams that are much harder than APs/A levels.  Only with all that data in hand will Oxford/Cambridge decide whether to invite you for interview.

 

ETA: this page gives the relevant statistics.  The statistics have to be viewed with the thought that almost no one bothers to apply to Oxbridge who has not met the equivalent of the APs you mentioned.

 

 

L

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I'm sure its all over the map just like college requirements in the US.

 

However, looking at http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate_courses/international_applicants/international_qualifications/ shows Oxford's requirements. No mention of diplomas at all.. so presumably the same requirements for all Americans.

 

===

SAT Reasoning Test with at least 1,400 in Critical Reading and Mathematics and preferably also 700 or more in Writing, giving a combined score of at least 2,100

OR

ACT with a score of at least 32 out of 36.

 

AND

 

Grade 5 in three or more Advanced Placement Tests in appropriate subjects

OR

SAT Subject Tests in three appropriate subjects at 700 or better.

===

 

Which looks pretty straight forward and not that difficult for a school at that level. Now this just gets you to the interview stage but does show the basic expectations. The page also has a good overview of international credentials that are seen as roughly equivalent. US APs, IB, A-Levels, French Bac, etc etc.

On a homeschooling email loop, someone has posted that their ds has a conditional offer at Cambridge (admission will be based on STEP scores) with none of those. I'm not sure how common it is, but that is one person's experience.

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As far as Key Stage guidelines: I would concentrate on English and maths.  Hobbes went into school at 10 without following the UK standards for science, foreign languages, history, geography....  No problems at all.  Similarly, Calvin went into school at 13 (to start GCSEs) with only his English, foreign languages and Maths having followed strict Key Stage requirements.  Again, no problem.  

 

L

 

Thanks :)  I want to keep up with Science too, because in general it looks much more comprehensive than in the US.  History in particular iis very, very weak through key stage 2, so that's not something we need to worry about... I was really surprised at that.

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Attitudes and school requirements came from the decades during which most Americans had to travel for hours and spend hundreds of dollars to hear a foreign language outside of a classroom setting.

 

It's not like this country has been settled by immigrants, is it? I do not believe that "most Americans" had to travel hours to meet immigrants.

Why, for example, aren't people in areas with large Hispanic populations fluent in Spanish? Don't tell me it is lack of access. It is lack of interest.

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FWIW, I learned English in a communist country where there really were NO English native speakers, where no teacher had ever been permitted to visit an English speaking country, where we had no access to English language films or audiobooks.

As did I, but I at least had the occasional English movie and intrepid tourist (spy? :) to learn idioms from. My poor father learned **exclusively** from physical books. Essential English, anyone?

 

I will agree with the previous poster that having easy access to foreign language TV should not be discounted. I never set to learn Italian, but I did, solely from TV.

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And you know, most people I have met have taken foreign language courses yet NONE of them can speak the language at all.  Even people who have studied a language for many many years.  So the only explanation I can come up with is they just don't have many opportunities to use it.  Of course one could really go out of their way to continue with it, but lets face it, life gets in the way and priorities shift. 

 

Of course priorities shift, and it's use it or loose it with foreign languages.

After graduating from high school where I had ten years of Russian, I was fluent in Russian and able to read the Russian classics in the original - but since I have not used it for decades, I have forgotten much of it. That's normal. But I also have only myself to blame for not keeping up with it.

 

But that is not the point. The point is that most kids here never get the chance to develop fluency in a foreign language that they then could keep up if they wanted to. It is so much easier to learn languages as a child. (My year long struggles with learning French as an adult can attest to that - compared to that, Russian and English as a kid were painless and easy.)

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We have Middlebury College French through k12, which is actually wonderful, an incredibly reasonable French tutor, and best of all, I bought the French bouquet package from Dish Network for $20/month. I leave it on all the time so we are listening to native French speakers on the news, cartoons (which everyone loves), and sometimes talk shows (just as insipid as the US ones, but in French).

 

I never even looked at the international education options and requirements prior to this thread. It is so useful...thank you.

 

Does anyone know anything about the schools designated as international schools in the US? I see there a lot of them....but what do they actually do? There is even one in St. Louis conducted entirely in French.

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As far as Key Stage guidelines: I would concentrate on English and maths. 

 

I completely agree with this. Over the course of my educational career, I went back and forth several times from the NY public school system to the UK school system, and the coursework wasn't an issue at all, largely due to the quality of my math and English education. I did have some content knowledge gaps, especially in British and world history, because the US school system focuses so heavily on US history.

 

Other aspects of the school day were a huge adjustment for me, and socially I had a bit of a struggle largely due to stereotypes of Americans at the time, but the academic work was never problematic. It was actually a bit behind where I'd been in NY.

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I agree that most kids do not get a chance to develop fluency in a foreign language. I know I hated my college language requirement. I took a couple years of latin in high school and then tried Italian in college. We had to have three years, through conversational Italian, and it was impossible to become fluent in three years without any kind of immersion. I struggle with this as a homeschooler, since I never learned another language.

 

While there is some weird anti-foreign language bias in some parts of the country, I think the larger factor is the fact that Americans don't really need another language on a day to day basis. Regardless of what you think of it, almost everywhere you go people are learning English. We can communicate and travel without having to learn a language. English has become the universal language. It's astounding to watch the olympics, for example, and see all the American TV interviews with medal winners conducted in impeccable English. We can interpret that as laziness, or cultural hegemony or whatever, but it is a reality that factors into our priorities.

 

When I think about all the things that could be improved in schools, I guess foreign language is not at the top of my list. Maybe I am too much of a Star Trek fan, but the huge advances in global communication, voice recognition software and translation technologies suggest to me that language barriers are going to fall fast in the coming decades. If I were overhauling a school curriculum with limited resources, I would not devote a ton of money to offering a multitude of foreign languages (it would be awesome to have fully funded preK-12 language options, but the investment would be substantial). I feel really sheepish saying this, like it is something to be embarrassed about. 

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OP, from a big-picture angle, an "internationally competitive education" brings to mind yet another quote from Rusczyk on problem solving:

In high school, they’re defining them as a success, they’re getting a hundred on everything and they’re first in their class. That’s not the standard they’ll be judged by in their lives. Professionally, they’ll be judged by international standards. They will not be measured by the best in their school, the best in their state, even the best in their country. The ones who will go after the cutting edge in this or that will have to be among the best in the world. These are the skills that you need to succeed in that arena -- you need to know how to solve problems that no one has solved before. You can’t just drill and kill your way through that. These are the challenges we need to be preparing our best students for and this is what these sorts of competitions do: they confront students with things they’ve never seen before.

 

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It's not like this country has been settled by immigrants, is it? I do not believe that "most Americans" had to travel hours to meet immigrants.

Why, for example, aren't people in areas with large Hispanic populations fluent in Spanish? Don't tell me it is lack of access. It is lack of interest.

 

I was actually talking with my parents about this recently.  Actually, immigration to the US was largely cut off between the 1930s and the 1990s, through a very strict quota system.  There were very, very few immigrants who moved to the US during that time, with the exception of a relative handful of Holocaust refugees after World War II.  The US during this time period was very insular, and the immigrant communities that existed prior to this period largely integrated.  

 

It's also worth noting that the largest immigrant group in the 19th and early 20th century were Germans, and fighting Germany in 2 world wars put the kibosh on very much German pride.  My mother was always frustrated that her grandmother, who grew up speaking German, would never help with her German homework, and her grandmother finally said "The last time I ever spoke German was the day World War I was declared, and my son was beaten up for speaking German on the street."  Up until that day, apparently, she didn't speak a word of English (which wasn't uncommon in insular immigrant communities), and after that she refused to ever speak a word of German again.  I think that attitude was not uncommon amongst German immigrants in the US.

 

It was during this time period that policies and traditions about what kids learn in school were being developed, and so foreign languages were largely considered unimportant.  It's really only been in the past 20 years that parents have started demanding them in earlier grades in the US, but that period has also coincided with much tighter educational budgets.  And, to be blunt, the most eager voters are the older citizens who grew up thinking that foreign languages are irrelevant to an education, and are not going to vote for budget increases so that kids can learn Spanish. 

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While there is some weird anti-foreign language bias in some parts of the country, I think the larger factor is the fact that Americans don't really need another language on a day to day basis. Regardless of what you think of it, almost everywhere you go people are learning English. We can communicate and travel without having to learn a language. English has become the universal language. It's astounding to watch the olympics, for example, and see all the American TV interviews with medal winners conducted in impeccable English. We can interpret that as laziness, or cultural hegemony or whatever, but it is a reality that factors into our priorities.

 

Of course most Americans get by without a foreign language. But learning a foreign language does not simply get you to speak a foreign language! The learning process is beneficial for the brain and unique (which is why I do not let my kids satisfy their foreign language requirement by being bilingual; they need to learn an actual foreign language). Also, knowing a foreign language creates openness, awareness, and appreciation of another culture. It is those two aspects that I find even more important than the practical one.

 

I believe this leads back to fundamentally different views about education in the US compared to many European countries. I feel that the US approaches education from a purely utilitarian point of view (being prepared for a job), whereas the cultural tradition in much of Europe values education for its own sake, without everything needing to be practical. The historically cemented icon of the well educated person who reads the classics in Greek and Latin has absolutely nothing to do with practicality - of course nobody needs Greek and Latin - but with cultivating a discipline of the mind, and with taking part in a centuries old cultural tradition. So, the study of foreign language has a lot to do with training the mind and with being part of an international culture - much more than the mere ability to converse with a foreigner.

 

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Growing up my dad spoke French.  His parents spoke French.  Not even his grandparents were immigrants (he is in his 60s now).  They lived for many years in Maine.  Anyhow, he had no motivation to see to it we spoke French.  And at this point most of that side of my family no longer speaks any French at all.

 

And I hear this sad tale from many immigrant families. Which is why we worked so hard to get our kids proficient in their native language. I do not feel that we have fully succeeded, because we have not achieved functionally symmetric bilinguality, as EsterMaria (whom I sorely miss on these boards) would have described it. But at least fluency.

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I agree that most kids do not get a chance to develop fluency in a foreign language. I know I hated my college language requirement. I took a couple years of latin in high school and then tried Italian in college. We had to have three years, through conversational Italian, and it was impossible to become fluent in three years without any kind of immersion. I struggle with this as a homeschooler, since I never learned another language.

 

While there is some weird anti-foreign language bias in some parts of the country, I think the larger factor is the fact that Americans don't really need another language on a day to day basis. Regardless of what you think of it, almost everywhere you go people are learning English. We can communicate and travel without having to learn a language. English has become the universal language. It's astounding to watch the olympics, for example, and see all the American TV interviews with medal winners conducted in impeccable English. We can interpret that as laziness, or cultural hegemony or whatever, but it is a reality that factors into our priorities.

 

When I think about all the things that could be improved in schools, I guess foreign language is not at the top of my list. Maybe I am too much of a Star Trek fan, but the huge advances in global communication, voice recognition software and translation technologies suggest to me that language barriers are going to fall fast in the coming decades. If I were overhauling a school curriculum with limited resources, I would not devote a ton of money to offering a multitude of foreign languages (it would be awesome to have fully funded preK-12 language options, but the investment would be substantial). I feel really sheepish saying this, like it is something to be embarrassed about. 

There was a time when I thought that one would be better served just learning proper English. However I do think there is benefit to struggling with a foreign language or two, and that, even if complete fluency is not desired or achieved, for the reasons you mention, there is value in the journey. I spend 30 minutes a day, every day on French, and soon it will be another 20 or so learning the Arabic alphabet. There is nothing my DS does now that he cannot take 50 minutes break from. I feel the same about stuff like programming, etc. Will it change his life? Probably not. Can he spare 15 minutes a day? Why, yes.

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I believe this leads back to fundamentally different views about education in the US compared to many European countries. I feel that the US approaches education from a purely utilitarian point of view (being prepared for a job), whereas the cultural tradition in much of Europe values education for its own sake, without everything needing to be practical. The historically cemented icon of the well educated person who reads the classics in Greek and Latin has absolutely nothing to do with practicality - of course nobody needs Greek and Latin - but with cultivating a discipline of the mind, and with taking part in a centuries old cultural tradition. So, the study of foreign language has a lot to do with training the mind and with being part of an international culture - much more than the mere ability to converse with a foreigner.

 

But, like you said, you grew up learning English and Russian in addition to German. Pretty practical for the time and place. Europeans are in close proximity to other languages. Quebecers have access to spoken French all the time. You may be right about the different point of view (I don't know), but Europeans are still getting credit for being multi-lingual and having a greater respect for language learning when in reality it is much more of a practical necessity for them. 

 

I don't think the world is learning English just to read English literature. It's a practical reality

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And what is crazy is a lot of people seem to think it's not doable (to teach children 2 languages).  I had a German friend for a few years when I first moved to NY.  I met her because she posted about starting a German language play group and I thought that would be great for my kids.  She started off only speaking in German to her children.  She was told by some therapist she should stop doing that because her kids would be confused and it would cause learning problems.  Ugh...what a load of...  I told her I didn't believe that and it's a great opportunity for her kids (one that I cannot give them).  Nope, she believed them and stopped.  She was too afraid to feel like she caused them some sort of problems.  I don't know if it is stupidity or prejudice or both. 

 

What a complete load of BS!

I do not understand, however, how anybody can believe this kind of advice, seeing that there are thousands of immigrant families who accomplish raising bilingual children without any confusion. (and still manage to beat their American peers in the spelling bees)

I have friends whose kids are fluent in three languages. Mom is German, dad is Italian, they live in the US.

 

But then, a friend of mine from Libya was asked in her birth preparation course whether she was planning to teach her baby both Arabic and English, and she answered yes. Another young women chimed in and asked "don't ALL babies speak English?" The nurse had to explain to her that babies learn to speak the language their parents speak to them. Ouch. definitely stupidity, too.

 

On the subject of prejudice: that is alive and well, and very selective. I usually get positive comments when people hear me talk to my children in German. OTOH, friends from Spanish speaking countries get a lot of grief and dumb comments "teach your kid English!" hello? that entire family is speaking English fluently.

 

Lastly, I have come across a great deal of defensiveness when the topic of foreign language education comes up. It's of the "I am educated and I have not needed it so it can't possibly be important" kind of argument... like we sometimes see about math. Sigh.

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Growing up my dad spoke French.  His parents spoke French.  Not even his grandparents were immigrants (he is in his 60s now).  They lived for many years in Maine.  Anyhow, he had no motivation to see to it we spoke French.  And at this point most of that side of my family no longer speaks any French at all. 

 

Probably there is a push to focus on English.  When he started off in elementary they actually taught in French.  Except for special immersion programs, I don't know if that would even fly these days.  Kind of a shame because one has a way better chance of learning a second language that way.

 

My grandparents immigrated in their late teens and spoke only Ukranian for their entire lives (in central Pennsylvania). My father understood Ukranian, but spoke English. My siblings and I neither understood nor spoke Ukranian.

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Just as a point of information - that will get you to being considered for interview - it will not result in an automatic interview.  In addition to those grades (and before you are invited for interview) you need to submit extra essays that you will have written as part of your regular school work.  You also need to take extra Oxbridge-devised exams in the subjects that are your chosen majors, exams that are much harder than APs/A levels.  Only with all that data in hand will Oxford/Cambridge decide whether to invite you for interview.

 

ETA: this page gives the relevant statistics.  The statistics have to be viewed with the thought that almost no one bothers to apply to Oxbridge who has not met the equivalent of the APs you mentioned.

 

 

L

 

Interesting... I thought the STEP exams came post interview but pre-offer. I know for math they only have a couple of dates in specific cities in the US that you *must* make it to... Anyway, I think even looking at the floor for consideration a top international school is useful for this thread. It may not get you in to Oxford but it certainly should be an "Internationally Competitive Education" the OP was looking for.

 

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But, like you said, you grew up learning English and Russian in addition to German. Pretty practical for the time and place....

 

I don't think the world is learning English just to read English literature. It's a practical reality

 

Practical for the time and place??? You seem to have missed the part about me growing up in a communist country. Travel was forbidden. We were behind a freaking wall, not allowed to leave. Nobody could ever dream of being able to visit an English speaking country. It did not even occur to us that that would some day be possible!

We did not get visitors from English speaking countries either - travel in the Eastern block was a pain and highly regulated.

No English radio, TV, media. It was very hard to get books.

We learned English just because. Not to converse, not to use it. It had no practical aspect for us. But still, our resource poor communist government found it important enough to teach everybody at school, since 7th or 5th grade.

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Lastly, I have come across a great deal of defensiveness when the topic of foreign language education comes up. It's of the "I am educated and I have not needed it so it can't possibly be important" kind of argument... like we sometimes see about math. Sigh.

 

I do think there is a bit of defensiveness. The motivations of Americans who do not speak another language have been and are regularly explained in terms of laziness and stupidity. There are real practical differences both in access to language and in education in other countries.  

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I ive in an area with a lot of first gen immigrants. most want to improve their english, not teach their native language to others. I couldnt even get family members to tutor my sons, as most have assimilated and dont speak the grandparents language. The bilingual ones speak, but dont read so dont feel comfortable giving lessons.The neighbors sent their kids over to play with strict instructions to practice their english, not give lessons in their native language...they are to speak the mother tongue only in thier home.

The school district is so focused on special needs that they only offer three years of spanish, the amount required for the diploma.

When I lived overseas during the middle school years, I would try to have conversations with the neighbor kids in their language. They wanted to practice their english, so that didnt go to far.

 

Now, it doesnt matter.i can shop and hear many different languages, but people switch to english outside their group. My receptive is still pretty good thanks to my middle school instruction, but it will take years to get past a child level...and that will require immersion, which wasnt even possible when I lived in that country.

I went into a pastry shop this summer, in the catskills. Everyone was speaking their mother tongue. The clerk shifted to english for me, asking what I had in my bag. I didnt know the english name, so I asked what the word for it was. I got the generic, pastry, rather than the native name, as a response. Maybe next time I can convince someone to tell me the name.

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And I hear this sad tale from many immigrant families. Which is why we worked so hard to get our kids proficient in their native language. I do not feel that we have fully succeeded, because we have not achieved functionally symmetric bilinguality, as EsterMaria (whom I sorely miss on these boards) would have described it. But at least fluency.

 

All this, and the history of the Germans in America mentioned upthread make us a very unusual family.  My kids are 3rd generation Americans going back to my grandparents coming over from Germany (and my great-grandparents, as my grandmother immigrated as an adolescent).  They came over between WW1 and WW2 - my great-grandparents spoke German at home, as they came over in their 40's and didn't have strong English.  But my grandparents (married here, but both from the same city in Germany) spoke only English at home.  It was not okay to speak German during WW2.  They could not own a camera (possible spying).  My great-grandfather narrowly missed being interned on Ellis Island for the duration of the war.

 

But my mom heard German as child from her grandmother.  Then she set about learning it herself - I think in college - and then visited the German relatives starting in the '50's.  She is fluent (well, not symmetrically, but speaks and reads fluently if not perfectly).  She made it a point to teach me German, starting with me as a child, and sending me to visit relatives for extended periods, and a year abroad.  I'm fluent in German (again, perhaps not symmetrically bilingual, but my German's even better than my mother's).  I've made it a point to get my children to at least functional fluency.  I guess I just figured at this point I'd really be dropping the ball if I didn't pass it on!

 

I admit I get a bit cranky when I hear (frequently) about families with a parent fluent in a heritage language who doesn't even attempt to pass it on.  I really don't get it.

 

We'll see if my kids pass it forward.  They have not always been thrilled at my focus on foreign languages - I'm hoping they appreciate it someday!

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Practical for the time and place??? You seem to have missed the part about me growing up in a communist country. Travel was forbidden. We were behind a freaking wall, not allowed to leave. Nobody could ever dream of being able to visit an English speaking country. It did not even occur to us that that would some day be possible!

We did not get visitors from English speaking countries either - travel in the Eastern block was a pain and highly regulated.

No English radio, TV, media. It was very hard to get books.

We learned English just because. Not to converse, not to use it. It had no practical aspect for us. But still, our resource poor communist government found it important enough to teach everybody at school, since 7th or 5th grade.

 

No, I did not miss this. It was a part of the curriculum - English and Russian. I don't think they just drew the names of those languages out of a hat to choose what to teach. 

 

I did not mean to offend. My point was simply that these languages were not being learned just for the sake of brain development. There was a reason they were chosen. They were the same languages learned in other Soviet block countries.

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I admit I get a bit cranky when I hear (frequently) about families with a parent fluent in a heritage language who doesn't even attempt to pass it on.  I really don't get it.

 

This is me. Only about 3 million people speak my language, and further, it is absolutely not taught as a foreign language, so I have no resources to teach it as such. I stopped speaking to him in my native language when I worked full time and I had about 2 hours of awake time with him at night. My child is learning foreign languages, just not mine.

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This is me. Only about 3 million people speak my language, and further, it is absolutely not taught as a foreign language, so I have no resources to teach it as such. I stopped speaking to him in my native language when I worked full time and I had about 2 hours of awake time with him at night. My child is learning foreign languages, just not mine.

 

Still seems a shame.  Are there no cultural reasons to learn the language?  Family back home?  But I've even found a lot of Spanish-speaking parents not passing it on.  They don't have that low-number excuse.  I think there is a feeling among newer immigrants to fit in or be more American by speaking English. 

 

Meanwhile, my dd is determined to learn Icelandic.  I think it has maybe half a million native speakers?  There is very little available, but she managed to find some resources online. Friend's son is learning Finnish, which has almost five million, but that's still a tiny number in worldwide terms. 

 

The big contrast to this trend I've seen among the Chinese.  They seem much more intent on keeping up the language (and culture) among their kids.

 

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Still seems a shame. 

I'm sure. I have decided to be economical with my energy, however. If there was any desire on his part to learn it, he would be on the next flight out to the grandparents and a private tutor would be summoned. Alas, everything he does at the age of 9, I have to serve up, and this is one battle where the cost-benefit analysis went the other way.

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It's not like this country has been settled by immigrants, is it? I do not believe that "most Americans" had to travel hours to meet immigrants.

Why, for example, aren't people in areas with large Hispanic populations fluent in Spanish? Don't tell me it is lack of access. It is lack of interest.

 

And often outright disdain for the culture and language.  (Which is ridiculous.)  I'll never understand the arguments against learning Spanish.  It's like people don't understand that you can speak English AND Spanish.  You don't have to pick one or the other.  :rolleyes:

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The big contrast to this trend I've seen among the Chinese. They seem much more intent on keeping up the language (and culture) among their kids.

 

Both Mexican and Chinese families here are affluent enough to send the kids back for the summer. The times have changed, and bilingual is accepted as assimilation is not the goal. Native English speakers have to go elsewhere to learn another language, or marry outside their group.

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Now, it doesnt matter.i can shop and hear many different languages, but people switch to english outside their group. My receptive is still pretty good thanks to my middle school instruction, but it will take years to get past a child level...and that will require immersion, which wasnt even possible when I lived in that country.

I went into a pastry shop this summer, in the catskills. Everyone was speaking their mother tongue. The clerk shifted to english for me, asking what I had in my bag. I didnt know the english name, so I asked what the word for it was. I got the generic, pastry, rather than the native name, as a response. Maybe next time I can convince someone to tell me the name.

 

Practical reality does matter, and this is so true. How do the Chinese and Germans speak to each other - English. It's a difficult trend for native English speakers to combat.

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The neighbors sent their kids over to play with strict instructions to practice their english, not give lessons in their native language...they are to speak the mother tongue only in thier home.

 

We have three close neighbors who are native Spanish speakers.  The above is our experience.  They are NOT in any way interested in helping anyone else learn Spanish.

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And even that doesn't always work!

So true! One of my great great grandparents was a member of the Cherokee nation. He learned english because he lived around english speakers. The kids grew up speaking the mother's language...English plus a smattering of welsh. she wasnt english, but a scot who had been sent to live with welsh relatives and of course back then english was the language of upward mobility. There are only app 15000 people now who speak Cherokee and less than 600, 000 who are fluent in Welsh.. I appreciate their heritage, but if I was to try to learn all my ancestors languages and cultures, it would be a lifetime. English is the common language in my profession.

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The utilitarian argument about foreign languages has always confused me.  Are we not all here trying to give our children well-rounded educations, including the beauties of the worlds of arts and sciences, rather than just teaching them a set of life skills?  I am not likely to put Shakespeare, cell biology or higher mathematics to any practical use, but learning about them is an enriching part of general education.  

 

My life would have been poorer if I had never heard my father tell me about how my personality changed when I spoke Chinese, or if I had never laughed at Moliere in the original language.  

 

L

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