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Foreign High School Students Get a Free Lesson in American Life

I'm Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Education Report.

Hundreds of high school students from countries with large Muslim populations have learned for themselves about American society. They spent ten months, one school year, studying in the United States through a State Department program.

More than four hundred fifty students just took part in the second year of the program. They attended high schools and lived with American families in twenty states.

The program is called Partnerships for Learning -- Youth Exchange and Study, or YES. It seeks to improve international understanding and security, and to teach about the rule of law.

Countries involved this year include Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait and Lebanon. Others on the list are Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen.

Students from the West Bank, Gaza and Arab communities in Israel also took part.

President Bush met with some of the students at the White House on June thirteenth. He urged them and their friends to think about going to an American university.

In a speech, the president described experiences of students over the past year. He noted that some got involved in political work related to the presidential election last November. One student from Morocco, for example, helped voters in Oregon get rides to voting places.

The president thanked the students for sharing their cultures with Americans. He read comments written by a student from Syria named Abdul Rahman. In one of his classes, Abdul found signs everywhere wishing him a happy Ramadan on the first day of the holy month. Abdul had taken time to explain Ramadan to the other students. He says some students even tried to join him in not eating that day.

One hundred sixty high school students took part in the program in the first year. State Department officials say they expect six hundred fifty students for the next school year in the fall. More countries added to the program include India, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Once students are back home, they are supposed to form groups to work on service projects in their own countries.

More information about the program can be found on the Internet at exchanges.state.g-o-v. Again,

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. Our reports are all online at I'm Gwen Outen.