The Global MUN survey, the largest of its kind, has recently wrapped up its first submission window, and there are very few surprises for MUN practitioners. The results do, however, allow MUN program developers to make a case that Model United Nations has long term impact on participants. With just under 1500 past and present MUN delegates weighing in, their collective voice is extremely clear: MUN impacts career choice, feelings of social identity, helps to develop hard academic skills, and ultimately, impacts career choice. Very few extra curricular programs can make this case. The purpose of this article is to lay out the findings and issue a challenge to school administrations around the world: if you are not investing in MUN for your students, why not?
Before launching into the actual results and drawing some obvious conclusions, here is a bit on the actual survey, which opened on October 16 and closed November 14. The survey was shared extensively within the THIMUN network, via Best Delegate, MUN Planet, and through individual networks in the USA, Latin America and Asia. Just under 1500 took the survey (1487 to be exact) with 70% being current high school students, 17% in university, and 12% post university/working adults. This last group was harder to reach, and its one that future surveys hope to target and expand on. Respondents were almost equally split between male and female (49% to 51%), with the largest groups coming from the Middle East (23%), Europe (17%), and North America (18%). Seventy four percent of students were familiar with THIMUN procedures, with 32% familiar with North American style and 19% with UNA-USA. Just under 7% were aware and knowledgeable of UN4MUN procedures, something that we hope to explore in a future survey.
The survey aimed to gauge participant perception, motivation and impact related to MUN, and to gather feedback on the current state of MUN and the direction current and past delegates would like to see MUN develop. Participants also had the opportunity to share their MUN story, something we will profile in a series of blog posts in upcoming months. We’ll also share more of the raw data in the upcoming month, but for now, the most compelling numbers are given here.
Individuals were asked to rate a series of statements related to their MUN participation. Individuals who somewhat or strongly agreed with the following statements are represented below.
- Developed better analytical skills (39%, 50%)
- Learned to argue effectively (35%, 58%)
- Increased self-confidence (31%, 55%)
- Challenged my own beliefs (35%, 43%)
- Allowed me to work collaboratively with others (39%, 50%)
- Became part of a community that meant something to me (27%, 55%)
Participation in MUN helped me to (agree somewhat/agree strongly)
- Become a better researcher (41%/47%)
- Improve public speaking (27%, 68%)
- Understand the workings of the UN (26%, 68%)
- Develop leadership skills (31%, 59%)
- Learn about global issues (23%, 73%)
- Helped me socially (31%, 56%)
- Understand the importance of collaboration in problem solving (38%, 49%)
These two sections of the survey asked similar questions in different ways, but the striking feedback from participants is that they gained significantly both socially and academically from their participation in MUN. Over 50% strongly agreed that MUN taught them to be better researchers, public speakers, more in tune with international affairs and taught them leadership skills. I also believe that a significant finding is that MUN participants felt they understood the importance of collaboration and being part of a group. MUN touched on the emotive aspects of learning, as well as the academic skills we associate with MUN participation. This powerful combination is why I think MUN is so impactful, as the next part of the survey showed.
Jobs and Careers: Did MUN Participation Matter?
In the early stages of developing this survey, this question rose to the fore time and again. At the end of a student’s MUN career, did it impact job/career choice? This was the one question many people wanted to have an answer to. And the answer is yes!
Post university students were asked the following. Respondents, 162 of them, replied that they agreed or strongly agreed:
- MUN directly influenced my career choice: (28%, 24%)
- Opened doors for me professionally (27%, 30%)
- Taught me skills that I use in my job (39%, 32%)
- Improved my public speaking which has benefited me in my job (30%, 51%)
Lastly, a whopping 71% of these respondents said that MUN played a significant role in shaping their career and professional life. (Forty eight percent of university students stated also that MUN directly influenced their choice of major.)
Future of Model United Nations
The survey also asked current and past delegates how they would like to see MUN develop in the future. This question dovetailed into a larger question of perception of Model UN: to what degree is MUN elitist or too expensive? The majority of participants (57%) felt that the cost of Model UN kept the program from growing and expanding, but only 28% of participants found MUN to be elitist. Support for MUNs in foreign languages (70%), free online platforms like THIMUN Online (48%), and an expansion of Model UN programs into Middle School ( 60%) and a move to make MUN’s more like the real United Nations (61%) were all areas where respondents thought the program could expand..
I’ll be publishing some of the raw data in the next week or so and let people judge for themselves. The survey will reopen in late January and run through the end of February 2015. It is hoped that more post-graduate MUN responses can be gathered. In the meantime, the evidence speaks loudly that Model United Nations impacts lives, career choice, and influences engagement in global affairs, promotes confidence in public speaking and appreciation of the importance of collaborative work.
All of which sounds exactly what education should be doing for all of our students.