U.S. Leadership on Education Diplomacy

January 28, 2015

“No matter where we're from, we share the same basic aspirations for education and for opportunity.”

- Secretary of State John Kerry

Education is a key driver of economic prosperity and social stability. World Bank economists estimate that for every year of study, individual income increases by 10-15 percent. Equal access to education also lessens economic and social inequality and reduces the risk of societal conflict and violence. Educating women and girls is particularly important: girls’ attendance in formal education drives gender equality, decreases infant and maternal mortality, and advances economic development.

Supporting increased educational opportunity is crucial to promoting economic growth at home and fostering stability around the world. Education, innovation, and entrepreneurship are critical to addressing the complex global challenges of the 21st century and shared goals under the UN’s Post-2015 Development Agenda, including on climate change, food security, youth unemployment, extreme poverty, and corruption.

U.S. Leadership on Education Diplomacy

The United States has long been engaged in education diplomacy. Our academic exchange programs, such as the Fulbright program, have strengthened people-to-people connections for more than 60 years. The United States has played an important role in strengthening education systems around the world, including through its work with developing nations. The Department regularly convenes U.S. education leaders to engage with their counterparts in other countries and encourage collaboration. We also contribute to multilateral education policy through the United Nations, UNESCO, and global efforts such as the UN Global Education First Initiative.

The United States is the leading destination for international students thanks to the quality, scope and diversity of our higher education system. International students enrich our campuses and communities with their perspectives. They contribute over $24 billion annually to the U.S. economy, making it one of the largest U.S. service exports. International students return to their home countries with a deeper understanding of U.S. values and of our society as well as increased knowledge and skills. This understanding forms a crucial foundation for future collaboration to address shared 21st century challenges like climate change and economic inequalities. Studying in the United States also connects emerging leaders from around the world to their American peers and to the American ideal of an open, meritocratic society that values critical thinking and community engagement and fosters innovation and entrepreneurship.

New opportunities—such as emerging technologies and the growing role of civil society—offer strong dividends and new partners for increased U.S. efforts to expand educational opportunity.

Leading Internationally

Secretary Kerry is making education diplomacy a policy priority, including by working across the U.S. government and with the education community, partner governments and others to:

  • Increase the number of international students studying in the United States: The United States will continue to use U.S. government-sponsored educational exchanges to build relationships and foster new opportunities. We will increase efforts to attract and prepare students to study in the United States, including through our EducationUSA network and by promoting English language learning overseas. The United States will also support efforts such as the 100,000 Strong initiatives in the Americas and in China that further engage the private sector and the higher education community.
  • Increase the number of American students studying abroad: Studying abroad enables U.S. students to gain the intercultural and language skills needed to thrive in the global 21st century workforce. The United States will continue to support exchanges such as the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program and other efforts that broaden access to study abroad opportunities for American students, while working with the higher education community and partners abroad to further expand opportunities for Americans to gain 21st century skills through overseas study.
  • Support workforce development, entrepreneurship, and strong education systems around the world: High-quality education systems support economic growth, reduce poverty, and promote societal stability. The United States will encourage efforts that strengthen the quality of education around the world, prepare young people for the workforce, and enable entrepreneurship. The United States will also expand our work to share and adapt free, openly licensed learning materials (Open Educational Resources) to harness other education technology.
  • Share and spread successful education practices: Through engagement with civil society and other governments, the United States will seek to showcase U.S. best practices for education systems, schools, and educators to use in improving the quality of education.