Students in Connecticut classrooms may soon be exposed to a wider array of international issues.
In an effort to give Connecticut students a more international perspective, the state’s General Assembly recently passed a law requiring international education for educators and administrators in school districts throughout the state.
In response, the Yale Center for International and Area Studies is now advertising its “Programs in International Educational Resources,” or PIER, as a way for teachers to fulfill the new requirements. The five programs, which take place every summer and have been held for over 20 years, provide educators with instruction in international studies.
Theodore S. Sergi, Connecticut State Department of Education commissioner, said in this year’s “back-to-school letter” that he supported the new law, and encouraged efforts to provide opportunities for international education to both teachers and students.
“The philosophy of ‘balance’ acknowledges that the world has much to learn from the United States, but that we also have much to learn from other nations,” he said in the letter.
But despite the new legislation, Caryn Stedman, PIER outreach coordinator for East Asian studies and international affairs, said she expected Connecticut educators to account for only 30 percent of the 130 expected to attend the programs this year.
“We really have to rely on teachers’ being motivated to come to the summer institute,” Stedman said.
Stedman said New Haven teachers are often given incentives for attending, though not all the institutes have the funding to support the tuition waivers that were available in the past. Despite funding cuts, the program has built up a reputation for providing educators with tools necessary for integrating international studies into the rest of the required curriculum.
“Anyone who’s gone will tell you that it’s wonderful,” said Lynne Maser, a fifth grade teacher at East Rock Community School in New Haven and a regular participant in the programs. “You feel like you’ve been enmeshed in a cultural experience.”
Brian Carter, the PIER Eastern European studies outreach coordinator, believes the institutes are so successful because of the collaboration that occurs between PIER and educators.
“Having teachers involved in the planning of this, I think, means it answers to teachers’ needs,” Carter said.
In addition to the lectures, activities and workshops held on campus at Luce Hall, some programs have an optional travel opportunity for participants, and most plan a field trip to New York.
The institute that focuses on Eastern European studies is offering a tour of Vienna, Prague, Budapest and Krakow after the program is complete, while the institute discussing ethnicity in China offers program participants the opportunity to apply for an all-expenses paid trip to southern China the following summer.
The programs are advertised under such titles as “The Teaching of Africa,” “Defining Ethnicity in China,” “Eastern Europe Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: From the Habsburgs to the EU,” “Teaching About Latin America: Focus on the Caribbean,” and “Reggae, Rap, Rock, Rumba: Geographic Rhythms in World Music.”