The College Board’s Gaston Caperton on America’s monolingual handicap.
Gaston Caperton: First of all, we’ve been terrible in this country [USA] in believing that all we have to do is to speak English. Now, we do a lot of work with the Chinese and we’re doing more work in India, we created AP Chinese, and we now have brought 200 Chinese teachers to America because we didn’t have teachers in America that could teach Chinese to our American students.
And so, we take about 300 educators every year, every summer to China for a week to let them have a better sense of what that culture is, and what can be happening in there. And one of the things that I think is embarrassing, to me as a person who only speaks one language well, is that when I meet with the Chinese, or the people that work with me meet with the Chinese, we have to speak English, and they’re speaking our language and we’re not speaking their language.
I think that one of the things that colleges and universities have to do is to put much higher requirements of entry into the schools that language is an important part of being a part of an international world. I would say, and the graduation from colleges and universities, that the knowledge of language should be an important part of that. So I think language is a critical thing that we in this country [USA] have not focused on.
Our Math and Science were not doing nearly the job we can. We’re revamping all our AP Science courses because they weren’t as deep as they need to be, or really quite broad and not deep enough. So, we’ve got to get more students to recognize the importance of Math and the Sciences and a commitment to that.
So, I think that those are two things that I really believe for us internationally are critically important.
Another thing I’d like to say is, if you want to know about the Sciences; I was recently the graduation speaker at a major university that is an engineering and scientific school, a lot of it is and, at the graduation, I would say that at least half, or more than half, of the graduates in those graduate schools getting their Masters and PhD were foreign students. Now, the reason that was because they weren’t having the US students apply or they weren’t competitive in those applications. That’s something we’ve got to change.
Question: Is there an overseas model that makes sense for American schools?
Gaston Caperton: I think the place that has done probably the best job, and the most progressive job, is in Singapore where they have really paid attention to Math and Science. It’s a very small but a very progressive country. I have been willing to look around the world for what is the best and the highest level of teaching and learning; I would say Singapore is a place that we’ve looked at, and people who we’ve talked to, to see what their innovation is.
The other thing that, when you’re in Singapore, when you’re in China, when you’re in India, one of the things that you really recognize is the real commitment and the hard work of the students.
We sometimes hear our students complain about the length of taking the SAT, as a part of the application part in colleges and universities. Well, the SAT takes about 3 to 3 and a half hours. In China, in Korea, I know that those exams last about 3 days; 5 hours a day of examinations. And so, the rigor that they expect and the work they expect from their students and the work they get certainly overpowers what we’re doing in the United States.
Recorded on: January 27, 2009