EUROPEAN UNION’S EDUCATIONAL REFORMS IMPACT ON U.S. EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM: SECOND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION AND CULTURAL AWARENESS
The winds of change in the educational reforms have been growing stronger since the European Union’s Bologna Agreement was first conceived in June 1999. These must be taken into account by the United States if our next generation is to remain competitive in the global market. Since September 11, 2001 there has been a growing realization within the United States, that in order to achieve better instruments to strengthen national security, compete and be successful within the global community, it has become vital to look at the American educational system which presently is lacking the international elements in order to do so. With the advent of the educational reforms in Europe (Bologna Agreement, June 19, 1999), those nations that have embraced more uniformity amongst themselves, have concluded that competition in the global market has made it imperative to make the necessary changes in the academic curriculum of colleges and universities, likewise at the K-12 level. In accordance to the growing globalization movement demonstrated in the last few years in regard to international education, the challenge for the United States is the pursuit of a national international education policy, whereupon there is a mobilization and coordination concerning international education efforts and recourses at all levels.
There is a tapestry of elements that emerge from this topic which converge, although on the surface they appear to be interchangeable; in truth, it is an evolutionary process – internationalization and globalization. Each has its own distinct criteria emerging within the confines of the implementation. What is fundamental is the acquisition of a second and or third language, coupled with cultural awareness. In the United States the vast majority feel that everyone needs to learn English and that there is no need to make the effort to acquire another language. Additionally, there is a lack of sufficient training for teacher candidates in the areas of second language acquisition and cultural awareness.
The theoretical framework has been based upon the National Association for Foreign Student Affairs (NAFSA), Lincoln Fellowship Commission and the European Union Council of Higher Education (EHE). Each organization has a reference point in conjunction with the goals and expectations referring to the terminology of internationalization and globalization. NAFSA defines internationalization as a process of integration at an international, intercultural, proficiency in a second and/or third language, and comparative perspective within all the units of a higher educational institution (2006). These integral parts will lead to what Sadkaj calls “transnational education” which refers to gaining access to the next level/step, which is the globalization issue. The term coined by Sadkaj indicates that there is a phenomenon which “transcends traditional form of education and increasingly operates in the form of various types of distance learning” (Sadkaj, 2001). It is under this premise that the term globalization needs to be implemented. This incorporates the acquisition of another language and becoming more globally aware of the cultural beliefs and mores.