International Matters

international affairs newsletter header

Volume 1, Issue 2-December 2013 



Welcome to the second issue of International Matters, the quarterly newsletter from the International Affairs Office at the U.S. Department of Education, highlighting important events, articles and topics related to international education.   The newsletter and our revamped website are designed to keep you up-to-date on what is happening and what’s around the corner.

This past quarter has been a busy one as we marked the one-year anniversary of the release of the Department’s first international strategy and celebrated the 14th International Education Week (IEW). Secretary Duncan kicked off this year’s IEW to a packed auditorium at the Department, joining the Asia Society, Longview Foundation and SAS in launching Mapping the Nation. With nearly one million data points related to economics, demographics and education, this new on-line tool shows in a powerful, visual way how interconnected each state and county is to the rest of the world.   You can read more about this event and how the new tool could be used to inform education and workforce policies here. You can also read more about other IEW activities below.

This quarter had several other highlights including the Secretary’s visit to Haiti and the release of new data from two international assessments  Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) and Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).  Please see below to learn more about these activities and others.

Thanks for reading this and for passing it on to others who may be interested in international education and engagement. 

Maureen McLaughlin
Senior Advisor to the Secretary and Director of  International Affairs

Secretary Duncan's Trip to Haiti 


In early November at the invitation of Haiti’s education minister, Secretary Duncan visited Haiti and met with students, teachers, government officials, and other stakeholders.  National leaders in Haiti are committed to expanding educational opportunity and raising educational quality. We saw clearly that children in Haiti want an education and are willing to try despite the odds against them.   You can read more about the Secretary’s visit here

International Education Week 


“On an almost daily basis, events and challenges around the world affect and involve all of us.  In our global community, learning matters – and that’s our theme this year,” Secretary Duncan remarked as he kicked off IEW 2013.  In addition to the Mapping the Nation event, the Department  hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for student artists who participated in the “Yo Soy…Je Suis…I am…My Family” program of the VSA International Organization on Arts and Disability.  This exhibit features artworks from around the world that portray students with people in their lives who love, support and encourage them – their families. You can read more about this event here.


The Department’s IEW education policy briefing focused on learning from other countries through international benchmarking.  Colleagues from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) and the Department of Labor discussed the recent release of PIAAC, the largest international assessment of adult skills.  See more on PIAAC below.

In addition to events hosted at the Department, Maureen McLaughlin spoke at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) Joint Session on International Education, reflecting on the past year since the release of the Department’s strategy and on priorities moving forward. Maureen delivered welcoming remarks at the NAFSA: Association of International Educators reception honoring the recipients of the 2013 Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization. Representing a cross-section of higher education, the winning institutions were recognized for their success in developing international curricula, integrating international students into their campuses and enhancing access to study abroad.  


Maureen McLaughlin also participated in the launch of the Inter-American Collaboratory on the Teaching Profession (Co-TEP) at the Organization of American States (OAS).  Co-TEP, financed by the U.S. mission to the OAS, is a multilingual, open-access, and collaborative knowledge bank on teacher policies and practices. Co-TEP will become a component of the Inter-American Teacher Education Network (ITEN), a professional network of education leaders  in the Americas that promotes cooperation on issues related to teacher policies and the teaching profession. 

Learning From Other Countries


On December 3rd, Secretary Duncan joined OECD Secretary-General Gurria to release the 2012 PISA results. As Secretary Duncan discussed in his remarks, the performance of U.S. 15-year olds has stagnated while other countries have moved ahead. In a panel discussion with Secretary Duncan and author Amanda Ripley, international students recommended higher expectations in the U.S. For more information please watch the NCES video summarizing the U.S. PISA results.

PIAAC, an OECD survey of 16-65 year olds, was released for the first time in October. The data showed that the U.S. average performance in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in a technology-rich environment is significantly below the international average. In addition the U.S. has large percentages of low performers in all three areas.  To address these concerns the Department has launched an engagement process to develop a national plan to improve the preparedness of  low-skilled adults. You can read more here.

Have You Seen This?

  • In November, the Institute for International Education released the 2013 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, which found that the number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities has continued to increase as did the number of U.S. students studying abroad. Read more about this report here.

  • In October, NCES released the report, The U.S. States in a Global Context: Results from the 2011 NAEP–TIMSS Linking Study. With this study states can compare the performance of their students to other countries. Read more about the study here.  


  • The 4th International Summit on the Teaching Profession will take place in Wellington, New Zealand on March 28-29, 2014. Education leaders from high-performing or rapidly-improving education systems will come together to discuss "Excellence, Equity and Inclusiveness – High Quality Teaching for All". For more information, please see the summit's website.