Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held a Twitter Town Hall on Thursday, February 8 that focused on education and the Latino community, or what Duncan calls Hispanic Excellence.
Among the issues Duncan addressed were the early education gap, the cost of higher education, the DREAM Act, and foreign language training.
Duncan stressed the importance of pre-K education in preparing children for school, calling on parents to make preschool a priority.
“We really need Latino mothers and fathers to say ‘this is the right thing for my child,'” Duncan remarked.
To address the cost of education, Duncan reminded viewers that public employees, including schoolteachers, are eligible for income-based repayment plans for paying back student loans and even loan forgiveness after ten years of public service. Programs like these the Obama administration hopes will attract the best and the brightest graduates who oftentimes seek out other careers because of their high student loan debt and the infamously low pay that a career in teaching offers.
Duncan expressed his full support of the DREAM Act and shared that President Obama is also passionate about passing legislation to give undocumented students a path to citizenship through college. Duncan said that the U.S. needs the talent that undocumented students have to offer.
A Twitter user asked why foreign language courses are not a mandatory part of the curriculum when state officials oftentimes insist that their own children study foreign languages to which Duncan responded, “I continue to think that our children should be learning, ideally, at least two languages, and maybe be trilingual, at least three languages. “ Duncan noted that studying foreign languages is the norm around the world.
“We’re in a globally competitive knowledge-based economy. I just want to level the playing field.”
Duncan mentioned that foreign language education would be part of the “well-rounded world class education” that the Obama administration is advocating and pouring a billion dollars into realizing.
For more information on the billion-dollar education initiative and the Obama administration’s plans for revamping the education system, read “The State of Education in 2012” in Language Magazine, February 2012.