by Daniel Obst, President and CEO of AFS Intercultural Programs

Today the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) launched a new Global Competence Framework, building on its current annual assessment of teenagers known as PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests.

This is an important step forward. Benefits of this move are expected to be two-fold. First, OECD is providing a framework for policy makers, educators and others interested in developing global competence among young people. Second, this is a much needed evidence-based assessment system of what students know about global issues and how ready they are to collaborate across cultures.

Global competence is a complex notion, defined by OECD as a process and “the capacity to examine global and intercultural issues, to take multiple perspectives, to engage in open, appropriate and effective interactions with people from different cultures and to act for collective well-being and sustainable development.” OECD describes this further here.

There is a growing need for fostering global competence among students. Major issues, such as climate change, pandemics, poverty and inequality, are all global in nature. Political isolationism is on the rise, while national economies are more interdependent than ever. Our local communities and neighborhoods are becoming increasingly diverse. The question I often ask is this: So how well are we supporting our youth to thrive in increasingly diverse and interconnected societies?

At AFS, we focus on this every day. Each year, we empower more than 12,000 students with intercultural skills they need to make a positive impact in their communities. We also provide learning opportunities for more than 10,000 host families and for our 50,000 volunteers. Our priority for the years ahead is to figure out the best way to offer global competence training at scale. Through our non-profit subsidiary Sentio, we recently developed the Global Competence Certificate, a blended, personalized educational program that prepares individuals with the global skills that employers and communities need.

Our certificate program, available in 8 languages, is currently used by 65 organizations in 40+ countries. Partners include Languages Canada, the European Federation for Intercultural Learning, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Belgium, and Global Vision International (GVI), as well as a number of academic institutions. A new partnership with Purdue University advances the development of global competence among students who participate in study abroad programs.

And private sector companies are also investing in preparing young people for global competence. Through partnership with BP, AFS provided scholarship opportunities during the past 6 years to more than 250 high school students from six countries to develop key global competencies by participating in high school study abroad programs. The need for global competencies is especially acute in STEM fields, as the World Economic Forum predicts a shortage of 50 million high-skilled job applicants over the coming decade.

In the years ahead, as OECD rolls out the new Global Competence Framework, we must make sure that teachers, principals and school systems have the right tools, opportunities, and support networks. They are our key allies in this process.

We anticipate that OECD’s new Global Competence Framework will nudge schools to become more purposeful and active in fostering key 21st century skills among their students. This framework is welcome news for all of us in international education and a much needed step towards measuring global competence. And what gets measured gets done.