Foreign Language and International Studies High Schools (page 2)

By — Educational Resource Information Center (U.S. Department of Education)
Updated on Jul 26, 2007

How are These Schools Funded?

Dependence on federal support in the form of grants is not encouraged. The National Seminar on the Implementation of International Schools, sponsored by Exxon Education Foundation in 1980, strongly advocated that Language and International Studies High Schools be developed through local resources, with federal funds playing at most a temporary supporting role in the beginning. The essential feature that will permit such schools to run at a relatively low operating cost is that the community, as distinct from only the school district, contributes its time and service. The assumption is that local industries and institutions will provide their services and expertise at a very low cost, if not free of charge, to an international high school. Indeed, the most effective schools are built on local ethnic concern and private corporate support.

What Unusual Problems Exist?

While such schools do afford choices to students who have different learning styles and interests, certain issues still need to be addressed. Staffing is a particularly crucial problem in international high schools as it is difficult to find faculty within a school district fluent enough in a second or third language to teach their particular subject matter (for example, world history) in the target language. In some cases, present faculty have to be retrained and/or native speakers from the community sought.

The issue of elitism is often raised as magnet schools are sometimes equated with selective schools. Yet, "selective" schools have contributed to public education (e.g., the Bronx High School for Science, alma mater to three Nobel Prize winners) and private education as well. Nevertheless, to avoid this issue, some international high schools have adopted a two-pronged approach: students choose between (1) preparing for and participating in a career-focused internship with an international company abroad or in an urban American center during the junior and senior years and (2) preparing for the International Baccalaureate Examination during the last two years of school.

The International Baccalaureate Program (IBP) was developed and is sponsored by a Swiss Foundation with headquarters in Geneva. The IBP offers standards of achievement in subjects traditionally studied in the last years of high school, leading to a diploma that is recognized by a large number of universities and colleges in 35 countries for purposes of admission, course credit/advance standing, advanced placement without credit, or a combination of these.

How Many Such Schools are There?

As early as 1979, the President's Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies made a series of recommendations, one of which called for federal funding to develop 20 international high schools. These schools were to serve as national models and to offer intensive foreign language and cultural studies in addition to all regularly required courses. The primary purpose of such schools was to increase foreign language competence and to promote an international perspective in education. Today, of the more than 1,100 elementary and secondary magnet schools in the more than 130 school districts, the National Council on Foreign Languages and International Studies reports that 30 schools are specifically designated as Foreign Language and International Studies High Schools. In addition, there are several private schools with the same kinds of goals. A list of these can be obtained from the Global Perspectives Information Exchange Network. (See "Resources" list.)

The creation and maintenance of more language and international studies schools will not come from national trends, college pressure, or other impersonal forces, but from the intelligence, commitment, and interest of educators, parents, and local leaders.

The success of the concept does not depend on federal capitation grants or incentive funds. It builds on local ethnic concerns, world problems, and private corporate support within a community.


Global Perspectives in Education, Inc., 218 East 18th St., New York, NY 10003.

International Baccalaureate of North America, 680 5th Ave., New York, NY 10019.

National Council on Foreign Languages and International Studies, 605 3rd Ave., 17th Floor, New York, NY 10158.

For More Information

Blank, R.K. "The Effects of Magnet Schools on the Quality of Education in Urban School Districts." PHI DELTA KAPPAN 66(4) (1984):270-72.

Doyle, D.P., and M. Levine. "Magnet Schools and Quality in Public Education." PHI DELTA KAPPAN 66(4) (1984):265-70.

Gilliam, D. "The Glenbrook Academy: One Response to International Studies Imperatives." MODERN LANGUAGE JOURNAL 66(4) (1982):396-400

Herron, C. "A Community Supported Foreign Language High School: The North Fulton Center for International Studies." MODERN LANGUAGE JOURNAL 67(2) (1983):12-48.

Lipshy, E. HIGH SCHOOLS FOR FOREIGN LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES. President's Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies: Background Papers and Studies. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office (Stock No. 017-080-02070-0). ED 179 117.

Presidentsy Commission on Foreign Languages and International Schools. STRENGTH THROUGH WISDOM: A CRITIQUE OF U.S. CAPABILITY. 1979. ED 176 599.


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