COVID-19 has illuminated vast inequalities in society and illustrated societal divides even more starkly. It is therefore incumbent to increase efforts to bridge these divides and I see intercultural competence as the means to do just that,” says Dr. Darla K. Deardorff in her latest interview with AFS.

Dr. Darla K. Deardorff is the Executive Director of the Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA) and a research fellow at Duke University in the United States. She has published, presented and consulted widely on international education and cross-cultural issues around the world. She has served as an intercultural expert to UNESCO and OECD, including for the PISA Global Competence Assessment.

Darla will join us at the virtual AFS Global Conference (22-23 October 2020) to discuss the impact of the first ever PISA Global Competence Assessment results on different education stakeholders, and help us define the path forward. Visit conference.afs.org to find out more and request your spot at the event.

Darla Deardorff

What role will intercultural competence play in the post-COVID world?

Intercultural competence will play an even more important role in the post-COVID world.  COVID has illuminated vast inequalities in society and illustrated societal divides even more starkly. It is therefore incumbent to increase efforts to bridge these divides and I see intercultural competence as the means to do just that. It’s important to understand that intercultural competence is not just about “cross-border” relations, it’s about how we connect with others who are different from us – full stop. Those differences are within societies – whether racial, generational, gender, religious, socio-economic and so many more. We must learn how to live together within all of those differences and that’s where intercultural competence comes in.  

What are some of the emerging trends related to the pandemic and global/intercultural competence development?

One of main emerging trends related to the pandemic and global/intercultural competence development include is how this competence can be developed virtually through online learning and virtual experiences. A possible second trend is the merging of intercultural competence and anti-racism – or at least a recognition that interculturalists need to more intentionally address anti-racism in their work. In fact, a colleague of mine, Harvey Charles, and I co-wrote an article together earlier this summer calling on international educators to entitled “International educators must lead on anti-racist education” (Times Higher Ed).  Other trends that were already emerging and will continue include emphasizing the lifelong nature of this intercultural/global development and prioritizing the holistic development and individuals’ well-being in which intercultural competence is integrated. Intercultural competence should no longer be viewed as something separate, but rather integrated into one’s lifelong development.  

How can the results from the PISA Global Competence Assessment influence the global competence education field?

I am hopeful that the results of the PISA Global Competence Assessment will drive the intentional inclusion of global competence development within school curricula as well as within teaching practices. I also hope that these results will spur a rich conversation among many stakeholders about the urgent need to address global competence at all levels of education.