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. Connie Rensink of World Savvy, an education nonprofit that works to integrate global competence into classrooms and prepare young people to meet the challenges of 21st century citizenship, is one of the distinguished speakers who will address hundreds of leaders from different sectors who will gather at the conference. We thank Connie for sharing her insights on global competence in this interview.

What are the necessary strategies and tools needed to integrate global competence in school curricula?

Fully integrating global competence in school curricula requires a partnership between supportive school administration and engaged teachers weaving the competencies into instruction. Ongoing training should give teachers the frameworks and room to design lessons that incorporate global competencies, SDGs, learning standards, and active student-centered pedagogy. That takes time and committed resources.

One doesn’t wake up one day globally competent. It is a journey of growth. And global competencies aren’t a set of ‘soft skills’ that are nice to have.  They are essential skills that need to be named and cultivated as rigorously as academic content. The content is the what. The competencies are the how. Students need to be given opportunities and challenges that cause them to explore identity and bias, think critically, communicate across audiences, interact, collaborate, empathize, strategize, and act to solve problems that matter to them. For that to happen, teachers need development and support.

When constructed with the SDGs, together with activities and products that require the practice of competencies, project or problem-based units of study naturally encourage students to take active ownership of their learning.  Because this shifts the traditional locus of control, teachers and administrators must work together to adjust scope and sequence schedules and to embrace formative assessment that addresses both academic and global competencies.

Reshaping models of education requires careful planning, training, and collaboration. The AFS Global Conference offers an opportunity for educators to learn from colleagues who have studied global competency in depth and to consider their best course of action.


What innovative practices have been developed to foster global citizenship and teach the SDGs to youth?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a natural entry to bringing global awareness to the classroom. Connecting the SDGs to existing learning objectives engages students with real-world issues that make learning more meaningful. Each Goal can be considered or applied individually, and it’s even more exciting when students (and teachers) discover the interdependency they have with each other.

Many teachers are using virtual exchange to participate in international SDGs collaborative lessons and projects. Some platforms offer structured activities where students are invited to explore the SDGs in their own communities and to compare what they discover with counterparts in other countries. Others focus on service projects related to a particular Goal that can be replicated across the world. Both build cross-cultural connections and empathy.

In design-based learning, students develop prototypes to meet the specific needs of stakeholders which helps them see the SDGs from different angles and consider how solutions may need to be customized for different situations. Through this process, students learn to respect multiple perspectives and to communicate with diverse audiences. It also teaches them how to move from learning about an issue to acting on their interests and builds resilience through feedback and re-design.

Connie Rensink, World Savvy Programs Administrator, is a global education specialist passionately supporting educators and systems to integrate global perspectives and competencies into the curriculum. She serves as the Global Projects lead for Teach SDGs. Connie was a teacher for 12 years and is an ardent human rights advocate. She serves on the Committee on Teaching About the United Nations (CTAUN) and is an active member of the United Nations Association. She has completed graduate course work in China, a Fulbright–Hays Project Abroad to India, and the Global Competence Certificate, a graduate program for teachers through World Savvy, Columbia University, and Asia Society.