Together with a number of content partners, AFS is convening the AFS Global Conference under the topic “Global Competence: Our Future, Our Responsibility in Budapest this September. Prof. Dr. Anantha Duraiappah of UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) is one of the distinguished speakers who will address hundreds of stakeholders from different sectors who will gather at the conference to explore global competence. He discusses the latest research findings and shares his views on global competence in this interview.

What is the relevance of global competence education today and what are the main challenges we should all address immediately?

We live in an interconnected world: economically, ecologically and socially. This in turn informs us that we are interdependent on each other for our overall well-being. But here is what is key when we talk about inculcating global competence among our students – it can’t be done through a subject. Because we are talking about emotions and the first thing we need to do before we can understand others, as global competence frameworks advocate, is to first understand ourselves.

It is about building the emotional intelligence of students and this has to be done through experiential and immersive ways and not through textbooks and lectures. So before we can build global competence, we need to work on building our attention and emotion regulation in addition to our intellectual regulation.

Using an intellectual discourse on why it is important is not sufficient. Introducing ‘global competence’ as a class subject matter will not build the competence – similar to the failure of education for sustainable development, education for peace and others. A global survey conducted by UNESCO MGIEP in 2015 of over 1,500 youth from over 65 countries found no difference in values, beliefs and compassion among those who had experienced education for sustainable development, peace and human rights and those who hadn’t.

Global competence must be inculcated in an experiential way and by focusing on building the emotional intelligence of people. Our current education system focuses on building the intellectual intelligence even when it comes to building socio-emotional competencies of empathy, compassion and understanding. Instead, our education systems need to equip learners with emotional intelligence by educating them in socio-emotional skills such as mindfulness, empathy and compassion. Such skills can help learners appreciate and understand different cultures and issues and enable them to interact respectfully with each other.

Prof. Dr. Anantha Duraiappah, UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP)

Can you tell us more about the recent findings in the field of education research? What new teaching and learning methods have you observed as particularly successful, that can also be applied to global competence education?

There have been some recent findings in the learning sciences, including the neurosciences of learning, which can be applied to our education systems. There is growing evidence to suggest our brains can be ‘wired’ or ‘trained’ in emotional intelligence. Therefore, if future education systems can train learners in socio-emotional competencies, chances are they will be able to address global challenges in a better manner.

In terms of learning methodologies, technology can be a game changer in education systems. At present, technology is largely used as a delivery platform and is viewed as being costly compared to existing delivery pathways. However, the cost of technology is falling rapidly. Secondly, technology can be a transformative pedagogy if designed well. Research in the use of digital learning tools can be used to facilitate interactive, immersive and experiential learning – including artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality and games for learning, amongst others. UNESCO MGIEP’s upcoming edition of flagship publication, The Blue Dot, demonstrates some of these.

What resources do educators most need to support life-long learners and ensure that global competency development is a fundamental component of education?

Educators can play an important role in the uptake of socio-emotional learning (SEL). But first, they need to be trained just like future potential students. Their brains need to be trained in a manner that inculcates socio-emotional learning to lead to building global competence.

Educators need to be involved in the process of content generation; additionally they need to be equipped with content or curricula that facilitates building of socio-emotional skills and be provided with training to use digital transformative pedagogies to deliver content effectively and ensure that global competence development is a fundamental and integrated component of education.


Explore the AFS Global Conference

Prof. Dr. Anantha Duraiappah took the position as the inaugral Director of the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) based in New Delhi, India in 2014. An experienced science-policy pacesetter having over 33 years experience, he now plays a key role in positioning UNESCO MGIEP as a leading research institute on education for peace, sustainable development and global citizenship. Dr. Duraiappah is presently focusing on researching and exploring how the neuro sciences of learning can contribute to developing socio-emotional learning through innovative digital pedagogies.

Find out more in Dr. Duraiappah’s TECH 2017 talk on “Flipping Education”