From the Archives: The following was written by Mahouchehr Pedram, a former Iranian graduate student in Education at the University of Kansas, and first published in Volume XIII, No. 7 of the NAFSA Newsletter from March 15, 1962.

Find more selections from NAFSA's history on the From the Archives page

In 1944 twenty-eight eminent American educators signed a public statement declaring that: "to insure world peace, true international cooperation must be based on a sympathetic understanding by all peoples of cultures different from their own." Today, the idea has been developed and is accepted universally, and as the Director of Foreign Student Program of the Institute of International Education, Harry Pierson, wrote: "The faith of thousands of persons traveling in search of further knowledge and understanding of other countries should be proof that educational exchange is based on a fundamental instinct of the human race."

Until 1946, the total number of foreign students at the American educational institutions never exceeded 10,000 in total number. However, since the end of the Second World War, the number has risen sharply and has proved to be an effective means in increasing international understanding and cultural relationships. The Committee on Educational Interchange Policy formulated two major goals: (1) to promote international understanding and goodwill among nations of the world as a contribution to peace and (2) to develop friends and supporters for the U.S.A. by giving persons from other countries a better understanding of the life and culture of the United States. No doubt students from abroad coming to the United States are surrounded by many unfamiliar problems and values.

The problem of this study was to investigate the reactions of students from other lands, while attending the University of Kansas, concerning the American educational process and teaching procedures. Specifically, an attempt was made to secure data which would answer the following questions: (1) Some general questions concerning their expectations, satisfaction of their academic work, and a comparison of the prerequisites, credit requirement, class attendance, method of teaching and examinations. (2) Their reactions concerning the American teacher. (3) Their reactions concerning class atmosphere in the United States. (4) Their opinions concerning the general procedures in the American schools. And finally, (5) their reactions concerning the American student.

By sending a questionnaire to a random sampling of all foreign students attending the University of Kansas in February 1960, the following tentative generalizations concerning the reactions of students from other lands were noted and seem justified in view of the findings of this study.

  1. Although prerequisites, credit requirements, methods of teaching, examinations and class attendance are different in the United States as compared to the ones used in other lands, most of the foreign students are doing what they were expected to do, they feel they will be able to use it in their return home, and relatively speaking, they are satisfied with their academic work.
  2. They, however, believed that the American educational standard is much lower than in their own countries, although a few dis-agreed in this view.
  3. While English language is a barrier for a few of the foreign students, the majority stated that it is not a handicap in their academic work.
  4. Many of those who returned the questionnaire stated that they participate in cam-pus activities, and also most of their friends are American.
  5. Most of the students agreed that the American teachers are more friendly, informal, and possess a greater sense of humor. How-ever, the reaction was sharply divided in regard to the questions of teachers' cooperativeness, and making the class more interesting.
  6. They generally considered the class atmosphere to be informal and with less respect shown for the teacher.
  7. They, however, accepted the idea that the class atmosphere in the United States provides more freedom of activities, has more flexibility, and provides considerable participation of students in class discussions.
  8. Their views were sharply divided in regard to integration of subject matter in different fields of study.
  9. They believed that, in general, American students do not possess a wide range of interests, they are not challengable in academic work, and are less acquainted with daily issues of social, political and economical nature.
  10. They agreed that the American students have a greater ability in planning and leadership and are more cooperative but reaction was sharply divided regarding the freedom of activities.
  11. They thought that there is a greater use of textbook, class discussion, daily assignments, written projects, and examinations in the United States.
  12. They believed that there is a greater use of library resources, community facilities, and also greater use of and opportunity for experimentation.

It should be noted that the good to be derived from a study of this kind lies in gaining knowledge as to what extent foreign students appreciate or are disappointed with the educational process of the United States. Since this study deals only with students attending the University of Kansas, no conclusion of national scope can be drawn, except to the extent that it is established that the sample used is representative of a broader population.

Find more selections from NAFSA's history on the From the Archives page