United States Sens. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawai‘i, and Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, recently introduced the Homeland Security Education Act, S. 2450, to strengthen instruction in science, math, and foreign language in the nation’s schools, Akaka said in a press release.
“It is clear our national security depends on a workforce skilled in science, technology, engineering, math and foreign languages,” said Akaka.
“We need to take action to strengthen education in these areas so that the United States can compete, prosper, and be secure in the 21st Century.
“A major investment in America’s education system is necessary to ensure that we can communicate with and understand the cultures of our world partners and competitors,” said Akaka.
Reports show that, prior to Sept. 11, 2001, the intelligence community was not prepared to handle the challenge of translating the volumes of foreign-language, counter-terrorism intelligence it had collected.
The intelligence community faced backlogs of material awaiting translation, including papers providing details on foreign research and development in scientific or technical areas; a shortage of language specialists and language- qualified field officers; and a readiness level of only 30 percent in the most critical foreign languages.
The Homeland Security Education Act provides the framework to enhance the education system so this nation will have individuals possessing these critical skills in the future by:
• Awarding scholarships to students as an incentive for them to earn baccalaureate degrees in STEM and foreign-language studies;
• Encouraging public-private partnerships to improve science and math curricula; upgrade laboratory facilities; provide scholarships for students to study math, science, or engineering at the university level; and establish internship and mentoring opportunities for students in grades kindergarten through 12;
• Developing cultural awareness and immersion programs in colleges and universities that combine science, technology, and engineering instruction with foreign language to expand international understanding and scientific collaboration;
• Creating language learning pathways to facilitate proficiency in critical foreign languages from kindergarten through graduate school.
The Homeland Security Education Act also establishes programs to increase the number of teachers in the fields of science, math, and foreign languages, through scholarships tied to service agreements, and would improve foreign-language teacher professional development through partnerships between local education agencies and institutions of higher education to hold summer workshops and provide distance learning.
“Our security and economic future depends on the next generation of workers and their ability not just to keep up, but to innovate,” said Durbin.
“Science and technology are the engines of economic growth. We must invest in our students and our educational system by providing the training and resources needed in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and foreign languages.” The Homeland Security Education Act builds on similar legislation introduced by Akaka and Durbin in both the 107th and 108th Congress.