Media and Int’l Ed. History

The history of international education seems to be complicated, messy, and a little bit unclear.  Professor Bob Sylvester at Bridgewater State College suggests that the field “suffers primarily from a lack of definition” (Sylvester, 1).   However, a general consensus between the attempts to document its history is that the roots of international education can be found in the early 20th century, and that its aim is an understanding and acceptance of world cultures.  Below I have outlined some of the important events in the field’s history beginning in the 1920s.

Although the timeline begins in the 1920s, I should not that here have been documented students and expatriates who have gone abroad, as well as earlier attempts in creating education programs with a global perspective.  The following timeline focuses on events, public policies, and scholarly research/articles about international education:

  • Organizations like the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the World Federation of Education Associations (WFEA)  were established in 1919 and 1923, respectively.
  • In 1921, the IIE began helping international students obtain scholarships, work, and other means of education in the United States.  Student exchange programs were established  between the U.S. and countries like Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, China, France, and Russia, as well as some Latin American countries.
  • In the 1940s, scholars began defining “international education”.
  • The secretary of the Educational Policies Commission in Washington, George Carr, wrote in a report in 1943:  “Education for understanding of international affairs and world citizenship must begin as soon as possible, in each of the United Nations, in order to develop a clear understanding of the common purposes of these nations and to preserve their unity through the trying years ahead.”
  • The Fulbright Act of 1946 provided “that currencies and credits of certain countries acquired by the United States from the sale of war-surplus materials could be used for international educational exchange”.  This became the flagship U.S. higher education exchange program operating in about 155 countries across the globe with 200,000 students participating to date, including 42 Nobel laureates.
  • The Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) was founded in 1947.  Today it is the scholar division of the Institute of International Education, and it administers the Fulbright Scholar Program.
  • The first meeting of record by the world education body which discussed international education was held in Sevres, France on July 21, 1947 for six weeks.
  • In a joint report published in 1949 by the National Education Association (NEA), the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and the National Council for Social Studies, international education was defined as “a broad term and necessarily encompasses many things…it includes the process of making students informed and loyal citizens of their own country – aware of the nature of the world in which they live, the relationship of their nation to the world as a whole…”
  • An article in the Journal Education Leadership from 1950 by Lavone Hanna, a professor from San Fransisco State College, states that international education must follow the following 5 basic principles, the first two being: “1) Science and technology have made all people increasingly interdependent, 2) All people have the same basic needs but have learned different ways of satisfying their needs”.
  • The first and only Documentary History of International Education scholarly article is published in 1960, written by Professor David Scanlon of Columbia University.
  • In 1963, Howard Wilson and Miller Collings attempted to clarify the meaning of ‘education for international understanding’ which was the common definition for international education for most of the 20th century: International understanding involves sensitivity to human relations, adherence to ethical goals…a deep loyalty to one’s own nation and the expectation of comparable loyalties in the citizens of other nations.”
  • Semester at Sea (SAS), a study abroad program, is founded in 1963 by the Institute for Shipboard Education.
  • In 1968, J. J. Scanlon and D. G. Shields publish “Problems and Prospects in International Education”, in which they propose a three part schema for the organization of the activities that ‘international education’ in the United States embrace. It included the following aspects: 1) Promoting Self-Image Abroad, 2) Promoting International Understanding and World Peace, and 3) Promoting Human Knowledge and Competence.
  • In June of 1969, James Becker of the Foreign Policy Association published a research study of the “objectives, needs and priorities in international education” in U.S. public schools.
  • UNESCO made a second attempt to define international education at a meeting in August 1970.  The document states: “Everywhere, directly or indirectly, an effort is made to initiate young people into the life and values of their national communities.  This is a part of moral and civic education in both its cognitive and its affective aspects.”
  • In Paris in November 1974, “international education” was defined at the UNESCO General Conference:  “The terms international understanding, co-operation and peace are to be considered as an indivisible whole based on the principle of friendly relations between peoples and States having different social and political systems and on the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
  • In 1977, the International Dictionary of Education defined international education as: “1) Study of the educational, social, political and economic forces in international relations. 2) Education involving the international exchange of students/staff or educational materials. 3) Synonymous with comparative education.”
  • Willard Kniep distinguished the field of ‘global education’ from ‘international education’ in 1985, stating that  “Global education appears to be the primary descriptive term for the field and it is taken to include education with a global perspective, global studies, world centered education, and global awareness, but not necessarily international education.”
  • The European Union initiative program that facilitates international education across Europe is called the EU Erasmus program.  It has facilitated international study for about 2.2 million students across Europe since it was founded in 1987.
  • In the 1990s and 2000s, study abroad and international programs began incorporating comprehensive courses relative to all learning variables, like longer durations abroad and housing options.  Programs also increased focus on intercultural and global awareness, professional development, and academic discipline.
  • Established by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000, The Gilman Scholarship Program began offering awards and grants to undergraduate study abroad students to fund participation in study/intern abroad programs.
  • International Education Week was first held in 2000, as a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Education that provides an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.
  • In 2000, a memorandum sent to the heads of executive departments and federal agencies from the Clinton administration provides a glimpse into the importance of supporting international education: “To continue to compete successfully in the global economy and to maintain our role as a world leader, the United States needs to ensure that its citizens develop a broad understanding of the world, proficiency in other languages and knowledge of other cultures.”
  •  According to NAFSA, 260,351 American students studied abroad in the 2008-2009 school year
  • In the 2009-2010 academic year, about 690,923 international students were studying in the United States–record high number which maintains the USA’s status as the most popular destination for international students.
  • The University of Southern California had the largest number of international students in 2010; about 8000 international students.

Even today, less than 1% of American students study abroad.  The field of international education has a long way to go, and I think that media can help.  Although there is not one universal definition for international education, there is one universal understanding that its purpose is to increase global cultural awareness.

Next, I have outlined the history of media, which moved much quicker than the field of international education.  Media’s development is also much easier to understand, and through its examination, we can make some applications to how it has affected the field of international education and how it can continue to do so.

  • 5000 BC: clay tablets and evidence of writing date
  • 2500 BC: papyrus scrolls served as writing surfaces, and each was handwritten
  • 150: introduced codex binding for books, which replaced scrolls
  • 1450: movable type and printing was perfected with Johannes Gutenburg’s invention of the printing press
  • 1455: first printed book is published (the Bible)
  • 1476: the first print shop is opened in England
  • 1500s: printing and book publishing developed rapidly throughout Europe
  • 1600s: newspapers are produced in Germany, France, and Belgium
  • 1638: the first printing press in American colonies is used
  • 1702: the daily newspaper is first established in London
  • 1810: first steam-powered press is created, allowing for more production in a faster manner
  • 1837: Louis Daguerre invents daguerrotype (the first process that can produce photographs)
  • 1844: the telegraph links cities together in the United States; networks are established in France
  • 1850s: news agencies begin operating
  • 1866: transatlantic telegraph cables connect North America and Europe
  • 1879: Thomas Edison patents electric light
  • 1891: Thomas Edison perfects the projection of motion pictures and films
  • 1895: the first wireless signals are transmitted
  • 1900: first broadcast of music and voice sounds
  • 1910s: telephones become widely used in large cities
  • 1920s: private radio stations begin rapid development and radio networks develop
  • 1926: television is demonstrated in London
  • 1927: the Federal Radio Commission (FRC; later to become the Federal Communications Commission) is established, and transatlantic telephone services begin
  • 1937: first digital computer is invented
  • 1940s: the radio is the primary source of news during World War II
  • 1949: network television starts in the United States
  • 1958: U.S. government establishes Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) to promote research in the telecommunications field
  • 1962: the first commercial satellite is used
  • 1960s: television becomes the primary source of Vietnam War news; color comes to television
  • 1979: First cellular phone communication network started in Japan
  • 1987: control and regulation of national data network is transferred from the Department of Defense to the National Science Foundation
  • 1990: HTML is created in Geneva, Switzerland, by Tim Berners-Lee–allowed for citizen use of internet/websites
  • 1990s: development of the internet into a new mass medium, internet browsers are created, and control of the internet is not in the hands of one single government agency, department, or corporation
  • 1992: first text message is sent
  • 1998: Google is founded
  • 2000: Sixty percent of U.S. households own at least one computer
  • 2001: Apple released the iPod and opened the iTunes Store
  • 2001: Wikipedia launched–now the website has over 17 million articles written collaboratively by users
  • 2002: Bloggers began to be recognized as members of the press/media
  • 2004: Facebook launched, limited to Harvard students only
  • 2005: YouTube launched; the website used more bandwidth in 2010 than the entire internet did in 2000
  • 2006: Twitter launched–today it has over 200 million users
  • 2012: There are 1 billion smart phones used worldwide

The statistics and numbers of media use today is incredible, and there is not doubt that the media we use and consume influences us.  With this belief as support, I believe that the media has the power to spread the word and advocate for the field of international education.  With the growth and development of the internet and social media is increasing popularity and support for ideas that are at the core of international education’s purpose.

The post World War era led to a rise in human interest in world peace, which I think has impacted the international education field and its programs, related public policies, and media coverage.  As the world moves toward globalization and a more international interest, I think we will find that the power to inform people about and encourage international educations will be found in our use of media.


Ball, Corbin. 2012. “1980-2012 – A 30+ Year Timeline of Meetings Technology Innovation”. Retrieved from

Connecting Our World. The History of International Education Quiz. NAFSA 2013. Retrieved from

Hofstra University. (2010). Mass Media History Reader. Pearson Learning Solutions.

Institute of International Education. History. Retreived from

Sylvester, Robert. Defining International Education A History of Attempts in the 20th Century (1944-1998). Retrieved from

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