What can we learn from new educational programmes as they forge their own paths? Part 2
What can we learn from new educational programmes as they forge their own paths? Part 2
What can we learn from new educational programmes as they forge their own paths? Part 2

In the second of this two-part series (here's part 1), we learn more from the Amala Education community for refugees and displaced youth. This time, we focus on how they embed global citizenship, what 21st-century skills look like, and their approaches to recruitment and enrolment.


By Amala Education co-founders, Polly Akhurst and Mia Eskelund 



What struck us was that the vast majority of the learning had a clear underpinning purpose routed in improving the world around them. Units of the high school diploma had a strong sense of global citizenship and intercultural learning – the focus on ethics when learning about social entrepreneurship, a focus on inclusion when understanding scientific discoveries, and a focus on identity and well-being when studying communications.

This builds upon the insights shared in the first post about Amala’s approaches to effective collaboration and alternative pathways to high-quality education.


How is global citizenship embedded and manifested within a community of refugees and displaced youth?

Global citizenship is deeply embedded and threaded through the Amala learning experiences and our community’s working practices.

In the CIS context, it takes into account ethics, diversity, global issues, communication, service, leadership, and sustainable lifestyles.

Each of these concepts, in some form, can be found in the Amala Competencies. For example, we have a competency area centered on leading change; and another on understanding self, other people, and cultures.

That’s key to how global citizenship is embedded into the way that we guide and assess student achievement at Amala.



Agency and amplifying voices

When we look at the individual courses that students take on the Amala High School Diploma programme, we can see that each is built upon the concept of agency.

Each course asks students to try and have a positive impact on their own lives and the world around them.

To us, this is linked closely to the idea of service, which is not something we name at Amala—it is instead built into the very purpose of an Amala education.

The curriculum also uses case studies from around the world to examine issues that manifest at personal, local, and global levels.

For example, our Making Societal Change course looks at worldwide movements that have made a societal-level change and ask students to reflect on what this might mean for the society they are a part of. 

Our student’s embodiment of global citizenship is already evident in the ways they are creating a positive impact on their own lives and the world around them outside Amala.

Several High School Diploma students and facilitators have represented Amala in an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) focus group—they are contributing to the OECD Future of Education & Skills 2030, shaping an education that is relevant for them.

Two Amala Alumni (High School Diploma graduate & Changemaker Course graduates) were also selected to join the Government of Canada’s Refugee Education Council. They join other council representatives to amplify the voices of refugees and consult directly with the Government of Canada and the Canadian public to influence the country’s role in global refugee education.

I look forward to what we will be able to achieve with the Council in bridging the huge gap in young refugees' access to education. It is crucial that refugees are given a seat at the table as there can never be an effective solution without involving the community that has been affected.Nhial, Amala Changemaker Course Alumnus


21st-century skills in different contexts.

Our entire curriculum is built around feedback from those in similar contexts to our students and what they want to learn about. 

Our own Amala definition of ‘21st-century skills’ is the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values likely to matter in the lives our students lead.

We do this by listening to refugee youth and people with experience of displacement whilst also looking at the literature and thinking about what students might need so they are equipped to thrive in the world we currently have and might have in the future.

Our competency framework then gives students an idea of how they can use this knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values to positively impact their own lives and the world around them. 

A skill that students seem to focus on is the ability to communicate in various formats using the English language.

They consistently tell us that Amala has supported them in speaking and writing in English. Given the number of higher education institutions that use English as the language of instruction, this is important.

'Before I joined Amala it was difficult for me to make proper conversation in English. Now, I have learnt how to write and present history to an audience of listeners using non-verbal communication. It has also improved my language and confidence in speaking which will help me in my future career as a journalist.' —Mohamed, Amala Changemaker Course Alumnus

Another important ‘21st-century skill’ to our students is a shift in mindset.

Students tell us that through Amala they develop the belief that they can take action and make a change. They develop the idea of taking responsibility.

For example, students in our third cohort in Jordan have just presented their end-of-course projects on the social entrepreneurship course, with ideas ranging from building awareness of cyber blackmail—which the students showed is a growing problem in Jordan—and ending underage marriage.

Amala Changemaker Course Alumnus, Ahmad, is another student who has put his skills into practice by launching a new initiative during the Covid-19 pandemic that raises child awareness of emerging topics such as bullying, climate change, gender-based violence and Covid-19. Read more here. 

'Studying peacebuilding helped me in a lot of ways. Especially the way it helped me open my mind to another perspective, think about how we can make a real change in our communities and how we can be real peacemakers to make the changes that we like to see.Ahmad, Amala Changemaker Course Alumnus 

I learned how to be empathetic and inclusive. These are things that every human needs, but we as refugees and asylum seekers cannot learn this easily. I learned how to understand other people's perspectives, and that no one is wrong. I learned from different places and different people. At Amala, we were such a diverse group, and we had a chance to learn so many things from different cultures in just 15 months.'—Ibrahim, Amala High School Diploma Alumnus




How recruitment and enrolment manifests at Amala

We look for students who have a high likelihood of succeeding in the programme, and whose goals and aspirations fit with the Amala High School Diploma and the onward pathways opportunities are available.

Importantly, our programme is designed to serve displaced youth who are out of school and/or have not had the opportunity to complete their secondary education, and therefore eligibility is an important aspect of our approach. 

The language in our promotional messaging and tasks within our recruitment process is all centred around students' commitment to using education to make change in their communities.


We make an extra effort to manage expectations by being clear about what the opportunity presents to potential students.

This also helps us to gauge student motivation and commitment, two key focus areas in our recruitment, to ensure we enrol the right students for the programme.

One way we do this is through our ‘selection days’, where we invite shortlisted candidates from our first online application phase to attend an in-person session at our centres to learn more about the programme, participate in activities, and attend a short interview with members of the team.

Just seeing who turns up to our selection days (as many don’t!) indicates to us straight away who is committed to studying with us for the whole 15 months. 

The language in our promotional messaging and tasks within our recruitment process is all centred around students' commitment to using education to make change in their communities.

This means that students enter the programme not just with a commitment to finish their high school education but to use their experience, and the skills they will develop on the programme, to create a social impact. 

When I arrived in Jordan, I looked at all the possible ways to complete my education, but none were suitable. They were either expensive, time-consuming and didn't make any sense. I saw the High School Diploma opportunity provided by Amala which was different, flexible, and rich and so applied and I am so glad that I did!—Majd, Amala High School Diploma Alumnus, Amman, Jordan



Read part 1.


Links to Amala student & alumni stories:


What can we learn from new educational programmes as they forge their own paths? Part 2
  • Global citizenship
What can we learn from new educational programmes as they forge their own paths? Part 2