Friday, June 12, 2009

More Emphasis on Study Abroad?

I was surprised when the House passed legislation to expand the number of students who study abroad. Study abroad programs, as Campus Progress has written before, are programs that vary widely in standards. All too often a study abroad program is an excuse to travel and hasn't proven any kind of added value to a four-year education. There seems to be an assumption that studying abroad has some kind of intrinsic value. But study abroad programs are often fairly expensive, usually on par with a semester of schooling -- sometimes even thousands of dollars more.

There is an argument that encounters with other cultures can be of value, but programs like study abroad often don't supplement that experience with the pricey classes that program tuition provides. Especially if the student doesn't have fluency with the local university's language, it would be almost impossible to have a valuable academic experience beyond language learning. It can be valuable to learn languages, but one could almost take the money spent on tuition to take a semester off to travel in that country and experience the culture.

I'm not entirely opposed to traveling to other countries or even studying abroad. I just think there needs to be more study about the kinds of education such programs should reasonably be expected to provide, and we need to develop some kind of standards for these programs. Otherwise this bill might just be a waste of money.

1 comment:

David said...

It seems to me that choosing a study abroad program is like choosing a class -- there are good programs and bad programs. You just have to find one that challenges you, both in the classroom and out.

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