by Anaïs Chauvet, Educational Support Specialist, AFS Intercultural Programs
The Covid-19 pandemic has made study abroad programs difficult worldwide, and nearly impossible in countries like China that have been under a strict lockdown for the past two years. Facing such limitations inspired AFS China to look for new ways to pursue the AFS mission and deliver intercultural education and global citizenship programs in these challenging circumstances. Digital education and virtual exchange have proven to be very impactful ways to maintain connections with the world and keep international education ongoing in China.
Around the world, AFS has been running Global Up programs for 5 years now, making it possible for educators, professionals across fields and university students to receive the AFS Global Competence Certificate and advance their global skills essential to live, work, and make a real social impact around the world.
AFS China started using Global Up to support their active networks of schools and volunteers, recognizing the need to continue offering international education and keep a window to the world open. More than 300 educators and more than 200 students have taken part in the Global Up At Home and Global Up Educator programs, which teach about effective collaboration across differences and cultural diversity within one’s own community, without requiring the learners to travel. AFS China is especially proud to have been able to partner with Tsinghua University, one of the largest and most prestigious universities in the country, for delivering these programs.
This initiative has supported AFS China to stay in contact with their local partners and to bring them intercultural learning training. The social impact they created has been an especially valuable part of this project: “Digital educational programs are easy to scale. It doesn’t have ‘spots limitation’ like in-person exchange programs so we can always reach out to people who are willing to join. As long as we have enough participants, we have an impact,” says Lingyan Jiang, National Director of AFS China. “AFS China has been working on intercultural learning since 2011, laying the foundation for us to promote the Global Up programs. Earlier this year, we published an academic book about it. I’m very proud that I myself have been in charge of intercultural learning for almost 10 years, so that I know the educational content, the policy and the demands from educators, which make us believe in digital education”.
AFS China’s strong digital educational team is making it possible for this quality program to be delivered as they adapted their policy to the management system of schools in China: they have small classes of participants from different countries like the Philippines, Tunisia, Thailand, USA, Australia attending the program and the sessions guided by qualified and experienced facilitators. Many students and educators highlighted the plurality of ways to learn from the program and how the online modules and the live sessions were complementary in learning from the content. They appreciated the support from their respective facilitators in supporting them to go deeper in their reflection and learn from each other.
AFS China will continue to facilitate the Global Up programs for more cohorts of participants, in parallel to running in-person exchanges. For more information about the Global Up programs or to partner with AFS China, please contact us at [email protected].