Ann’Andreza Martins is the National Director of AFS Intercultura Brazil, an international voluntary non-governmental, non-profit organization that operates exchanges and provides intercultural learning opportunities to help people develop the skills needed to create a more just and peaceful world. With more than 15 years of experience in international education, Ms. Martins has a degree in International Relations and Child Development by West Virginia University and a Masters in Social Work and Public Health by Boston University. With extensive experience in international public agencies, her professional trajectory includes organizations such as the Massachusetts Department of Social Services and the Harvard Teaching Hospital in the U.S. as well as the Fulbright Commission and EducationUSA in Brazil. Currently enrolled in the governance and public policy program sponsored by the Banco de Desarrollo de America Latina, she is researching how local educational policy is taking into account the future PISA evaluation on global citizenship competence. Andreza is a mother to Marina (21), who is a law student and will be studying European law in the Netherlands next semester and AFS mother to Lisa (20) studying Fashion Design in Vienna. She is married to Afonso Claudio, AC, a jazz saxophone player and professor at the federal university in Rio.
How do you feel that AFS as an organization can contribute to fostering intercultural competence around the world especially during these times of uncertainty?
I see we have key spaces where we can be:
In schools – creating opportunities for contact, interaction and reflection in the school community. AFS helps schools to open their doors to the world and supports them in structured ways to make the classroom a laboratory for learning to live together.
In communities – In Brazil, each community is at a different stage, some are very aware and feel the need to develop intercultural competencies as this already affects their daily lives. Others are very homogenous and the mere expression intercultural competence has no translation or real meaning to them. In this case, we need to identify these stages and promote activities accordingly.
In Brazil we play a lot on a key characteristic of our culture, curiosity about the other from a novelty perspective, then we can explore the cultural other within us, as we are by definition a very heterogeneous society. So, first we develop interest and sensitivity and second, we promote reflection, ultimately inviting people to identify small ways in which they can change their attitudes.
Education has always been the key to expanding the vision of people. How do you feel intercultural learning incorporated within the educational framework to help in broadening the overall learning process for individuals?
Intercultural Competence, Global Citizenship Competence no matter what you call it, this is a key priority for 21st century education and life in a sustainable world. I have been reading a lot about this topic and there is Venezuelan Scholar at Harvard, Fernando Reimmers who talks about the great paradox of education in our times. He says that since the Declaration of Human Rights and the emphasis on education, most countries in the world have developed “a legal framework and a set of institutions that ensure that most children begin school and spend in them several years in the early stages of their lives.” But in spite of the great institutional capacity of schools they have not been able, in the most part, to prepare students to “address the global challenges and opportunities shared with their fellow world citizens” (Educating for Global Competency, Fernando Reimmers).
Personally, I do feel that as a society we have attributed excessive responsibility to school almost as if education and schools were synonyms, but we know that is not the case. Education is a societal effort and a considerable part of this happens in schools, but it is not fair to expect them to do it all alone. So, my view is that schools need partners and supporters to help them deliver all that society expects and certainly, intercultural competence is such an area where organizations like AFS can be of great support to schools.
What initiatives has AFS Brazil undertaken to shape the international education worldwide?
Relating to these two spaces we feel we can act – schools and communities – we have identified a few strategies. For communities, we are working with a model we call Efeito +, which was developed in partnership with AFS INT around the World Congress in Rio. In this model, we link Global Competence (GC) as a key skill for attaining the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). We partner locally with public and private entities to promote a day of reflection with teenagers on the 4 to 5 SDSs that are more relevant to their community – Clean Water, Gender Equality, etc. – they chose among the 17 SDGS. We bring GC skills as a way to do things and as a perspective to take into consideration in all actions they decide to undertake. As for schools, we feel there is a key opportunity worldwide that is the fact that as of 2018 the PISA test will start measuring Global Competence Skills in addition to math, sciences and languages! This is an example of how we can be a great partner to schools who cannot do it all alone. AFS can be the facilitator for the development of these competencies at all levels of the school community. Here schools have the opportunity to host a student, a volunteer, organize workshop for teachers or whatever else they tell us they might want or need. We go to schools to listen as well. We feel these are practices that generate great impact for us and can inspire other AFS organizations to look at what makes sense to them.
Any suggestions as to how the intercultural learning can be given due importance/ awareness in lesser explored areas so as to reach out for more openness and awareness in obtaining intercultural learning.
It was Lord Kelvin – famous physicist that said –If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it. The decision of the OECD to start measuring Global Citizenship Competence in the PISA 2018 will be a game changer for this field in the realm of education worldwide. We will have our hands full and need to be ready to step up.
Schools are important partners in growth of AFS programs. How has AFS involved schools in country to make them strong partners? What are some kinds of activities that AFS has been doing to improve school relationships, and can be an example for others in the field of Global Education?
Brazil is a country marked by great inequality and I believe that is the case in many upcoming economies. To begin with as an institution, we have a commitment to partner with both private and public schools and have formal agreements with a network of federal public schools that strive for excellence but provide free public education. From a structural perspective, we have a school responsible staff member who also supports and develops volunteers focused on this role. From a communication perspective, we have a dedicated space on our website and a newsletter to educators. This year we will offer scholarships for teachers to go on short term programs within Latin America and attend educational conferences. From a program perspective, we are developing a section of Sentio programs to focus on volunteering/interning in a school setting and we run Efeito + workshops in partnership with local schools.
Volunteers are the pillars when it comes to the functioning of AFS. What can more initiatives be brought forth to garner motivation amongst the volunteers?
We do not need to motivate our volunteers, they come to AFS because they are motivated by the ability to impact the world in big and small ways. We have to be careful not to demotivate them and we need to allow the organization to be moved by their motivation. Basically, we need to create structured channels for this motivation to flow and generate the impact they dream – a more just and peaceful world.
How has the AFS experienced/helped you?
The intercultural experience I had as high school student was a life changing experience that created meaning for most of the things I have chosen to do with my life after that. This is a common feeling for many people in this organization. What AFS did for me was to give me a place to take this to a professional level, to allow me to work in worldwide community of like-minded professionals and people with whom I learn so much every day. Lately, probably because of age, half a century coming around the corner, and because of state of the worlds developments I have felt a real need to gain scale in what we do. I believe the AFS experience can also give us that – Connecting Lives Sharing Cultures – Broader Reach Deeper Impact. It is a joy and a privilege to work in a place with a tag line I can print on my business card and tattoo in my heart.