by Julia Taleisnik (@julitaleisnik), Volunteer Development Director for AFS Argentina & Uruguay

What happens when you gather experts on global citizenship with more than six hundred people interested in that topic on the same day?

There might not be a single answer for this question, but here are some outcomes of the Global Education Symposium: Fixing Globalization through Education, organized by AFS Argentina & Uruguay (5 April, Buenos Aires), which did precisely that. The Symposium consisted of two panels, one with experts on international education as well as a youth panel. The attendees learned about global citizenship education, intercultural assessments for schools and links between neuroscience and intercultural education from three extraordinary keynote speakers:

  • Dr. Carlos Torres, UNESCO Chair for Global Citizenship Education,
  • Cecilia Mosto, Director of CIO Argentina, and
  • Dr. Diego Golombek, neuroscientist and researcher.

The Symposium was recognized by the Presidency of Argentina as an “Event of National Interest”.

Paradigm shift: global citizenship is a power skill

Global citizenship is a power skill. Daniel Obst, President and CEO of AFS Intercultural Programs, introduced this concept, which reflects many of the ideas considered in the Symposium. Education for global citizenship must be included in every educational system. A holistically-approached education, in which global citizenship plays a fundamental role, can train responsible citizens with a strong sense of social justice and the skills necessary to change their realities.  

Dr. Carlos Torres, UNESCO Chair for Global Citizenship Education, claimed “education can be a tool even more powerful than security or politics, and must be taken into account in an ecosystem where young people are concerned with social justice, economic development and peaceful coexistence.Read more of Dr. Torres’ reflections on global education in his latest interview with AFS.

Study abroad opportunities allow people to understand the world from different perspectives, so that they can acquire new skills and worldviews. This was concluded by the Youth Panel, which discussed the importance of the availability of such opportunities. Being aware of our own prejudices – as Mariana Aguilar, representative of a nonprofit Global Shapers and member of the World Energy Council, said – or realizing that people can bring about social change, but only with the support of institutions and organizations – as Victoria Gardella, a social entrepreneur and AFS alumna, pointed out, are both essential. Jonathan Modernel, AFS alum, representative of the Ministry of Education and Expedición Ciencia, an educational youth organization, concluded that study abroad opportunities have life-long impact.

Educators are agents of change

How do we improve education? We ask ourselves this question quite often in AFS and it was also a pervasive concern during the Symposium, discussed in detail by the panel of experts. A key idea agreed on by all the panelists is that teachers are agents of change, whose role needs to evolve to have an even greater impact on the classroom.

Verónica Boix Mansilla, researcher and Board Member of Harvard University’s Project Zero, asserted that educating teachers to become agents of change is challenging but not impossible, and that education for global citizenship implies rethinking our curricula so that they allow for new, meaningful experiences at school.

In this same vein, Mick Vande Berg, Founder and Director of MVB Associates, made it clear that teachers’ duties need to involve the development of their own intercultural competences, or else they will not be able to guide their students on this path. The good news is that some schools are already working on this and opening to the benefits of intercultural opportunities in the educational environment. Such is the case of Las Nieves School, whose principal, Father Adolfo Granillo Ocampo, suggested during the panel that we should go for innovation in education.

We are all in this mission together

Teachers believe that schools are not well prepared to deal with diversity in their classrooms. This was one of the conclusions drawn by Cecilia Mosto, Director of CIO Argentina, a consulting firm specialized in social, political and communication research, who presented the results obtained from the AFS Global Competence Readiness Index, a survey that helps schools self-assess where they stand in terms of fostering global competence and how to improve their practices.

We need diversity to decrease negative prejudice among young people and for classrooms to become a key place for global competence development. To achieve this, civil society organizations, the government, private entities and schools will have to work together. Jonathan Modernel encouraged organizations to meet with those other agents with their same values. Francisco Miguens Campos, Head of the International Cooperation National Office of the  Ministry of Education, said that the government can take part in this effort by removing obstacles that discourage students from pursuing education abroad.

AFS already knows the way. “The key to work with future generations is to make them aware of their essential role in transforming our society into one where we can learn to live together in harmony.” Those were the words of Juan Medici, Executive Director of AFS Argentina & Uruguay, when closing the Symposium. Or, as Dr. Diego Golombek said in his session on neuroscience and interculturalism: “Education can change the world.” In AFS, we think so too.

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