Over the past five years, AFS has joined forces with local schools, universities, NGOs and government ministries to highlight the importance of global competence education for young people from all backgrounds. So far this year, AFS has convened and participated in dozens of international events to help more leaders, educators and influencers understand why learning about the intersection of cultures and how to make meaningful connections must be an integral part of education going forward.

“After 70 years of providing exchange programs in more than 100 countries, we know more teens than ever want to add ‘global’ to their personal identities,” says Melissa Liles, AFS Chief Global Engagement Officer. “AFS sends 12,0000 students abroad for high school and themed summer programs. But that’s not enough. We believe that all children must be exposed to diverse cultures and worlds beyond their own as a fundamental part of their education.

“Making the case for global competence education is tricky,” adds Hazar Yildirim, Director of Strategic Alliances at AFS. “AFS organizations around the world are connecting with various stakeholders to mobilize resources and approach this important topic from as many vantage points as possible. Combining our expertise and resources is the most effective way to stimulate interest and generate impact in brining global competence education to everyone worldwide.”

Although to those who are already committed, this sounds like a old news, there are many naysayers who are not yet convinced this is an educational imperative. Others are having trouble gaining traction working through mazes of education ministries, teacher associations and government administrations trying to find advocates and financing to fund the curriculum development and teacher training. Organizations like AFS are transforming study abroad, exchange programs and youth programs to include global skills and meet the global and social impact interests of more teens and young adults.

AFS Symposiums and workshops in Malaysia, Argentina, and Turkey tackled these challenges from three different vantage points, focusing on a variety of stakeholders.   


AFS makes case for global competence curriculum  in international education at Asia-Pacific conference

The “Global Competence in International Education” workshop was a popular session at The Asia-Pacific Association for International Education (APAIE) Conference (25-29 March 2019: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia). The 2019 APAIE Conference and Exhibition “Diversity and Inclusivity of Higher Education in the Asia Pacific” brought together 2000 international education policy-makers, practitioners and experts from across the globe to the Asia-Pacific region to network, improve professional skills and learn about new developments in international education. The important role Asia Pacific plays in international education is reinforced by a growing number of attendees to this annual event.

The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Kirrilee Hughes and Angela Roye, AFS Australia and AFS India, along with Cultural Affairs Specialist Suyin Chia from the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia. Attended by 30 university and government representatives, this workshop explored how education programs can foster global competence and global citizenship in university students and faculty. Through experiential activities conference delegates learned to suspend (and help others to suspend) judgment in intercultural settings as well as to foster curiosity. Participants are now able to integrate global competence education in institution-based strategies in Asia.


Reinforcing the value of study abroad as a cornerstone for sustainability in Argentina

Global competence education and its links to study abroad were on the minds of 500 attendees of AFS Argentina’s Global Education Symposium (4 April 2019: Buenos Aires, Argentina). Local and international experts, including government officials, NGOs, educators and young people came together at this annual event. Their conclusion? International mobility is key in the development of essential competencies for a more connected, sustainable world in which intercultural differences are respected.

The Symposium, declared of National Interest by the President of Argentina Mauricio Macri, was supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship, the United Nations Information Centre for Argentina and Uruguay, the Varkey Foundation, Primero Educación and the Argentine Network for International Cooperation.

Óscar Ghillione, of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology, emphasized that transformative experiences abroad are crucial for educating leaders “who have a clear local and global vision,” who make a real difference in the world through a collective effort. Andreas Schleicher of OECD and long-time supporter of AFS added that it is essential for educational systems of the world to encourage “the passion for connecting with others.” The Executive Director of AFS Argentina, Juan Medici concluded that the public-private-social synergies are key to creating the necessary tools for future leaders be more inclusive and see differences as a necessary value to make a better world. “Future leaders must demonstrate respect for others, cultural sensitivity and adaptability in ambiguous situations, which are all skills developed by international mobility experiences,” Medici concluded.

A key tool to guide educators and educators in developing such competences in students in the AFS Global Competence Readiness Index. Ana Carolina Cassiano of AFS Intercultural Programs, presented this self-reflection tool for educators that helps educators determine how prepared are their institutions to teach global competences. “Educators need support to access and maximize key resources for teaching global competence. In order for them to do this, institutions must have a strategic vision,” Cassiano emphasized.


Supporting teachers in developing global competence

AFS Global Competence Readiness Index is not the only way AFS supports schools and educators in improving how they teach global competence. AFS Turkey’s annual Spectrum of Education conference has become a key event on many European teachers’ agenda. This year’s 7th edition of Spectrum of Education (13 April 2019: Istanbul, Turkey) was organized in collaboration with ALEV Schools to explore global competence with experts from different sectors.

The agenda was a blend of intercultural learning elements, insightful presentations and engaging discussions that involved all participants. Attendees participated in an introductory workshop on intercultural learning, and were hosted by local families for dinner. AFS President & CEO, Daniel Obst emphasized the importance of exchange and study abroad programs for students to become more globally competent.

All these regional events and debates about global competence education will culminate at the AFS Global Conference, 9-11 October in Montreal, Canada which will focus on Active Global Citizenship—and How to Educate for It.