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DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION

Amala Education: Bridging the Education Gap

By James Mattiace
22-Nov-23
Amala Education: Bridging the Education Gap


(Photo source: Amala Education)

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“Avant [sic] Certificate will help me get a good job. The certificate will also make me recognized.” - Amala Kakuma, student, July 2023

In 2017, Amala Education (formerly known as Sky School) was launched to address the gap in quality education provision for displaced youth aged 16-25, many of whom were living in refugee camps. Not only was there a need for a relevant education that addressed their specific circumstances, but it also needed to be accredited to make the diploma eligible for entrance into higher education. Two United World College (UWC) international employees (and former UWC students), Polly Akhurst and Mia Eskelund Pederson, co-founded The Amala High School Diploma program, now operating in Kenya and Jordan. Amala supports students in accessing further opportunities for education, training. and work beyond their studies.

In August 2022, Avant Assessment Co-Founder and CEO, David Bong, opened up the possibility of providing free STAMP 4S tests to the Amala students to recognize their biliteracy skills, help them earn the Global Seal of Biliteracy, and support their university applications. The Avant team and Global Seal of Biliteracy representatives met with Amala to discuss logistics like internet bandwidth, languages needed, and how the Global Seal process worked after the STAMP test was completed.

In the beginning of 2023, program facilitators in both Kenya and Jordan took the STAMP4S test to not only understand the test itself but to also try for their own Global Seal of Biliteracy. In June of 2023, students at both sites tested their skills in English so that they too could obtain a Global Seal of Biliteracy. Khaled, an Amala student in a refugee camp in Jordan that speaks Arabic, Somali, and English, said, "Seeing my English proficiency level was a pretty positive experience, but what surprised me was the test's unusual format. I've never taken an English test like that. Having an English proficiency certification would be very beneficial to me because it is a language that is widely used nowadays and is essential."

The Global Seal of Biliteracy will not only verify their skills in their dominant language, but also validate their skills in a second or even third language using the Avant STAMP test. The credential will expand the opportunities for further education and employment once they finish the Amala High School Diploma program. Because Avant offers its assessment in 45 languages, including the ones most Amala students speak, they gain the unique opportunity to have their home language ability and their new English proficiency recognized as a valuable skill. 

(Photo source: Amala Education)

While the Global Seal Certificate is free, applicants need an accepted test to prove their proficiency. The Avant STAMP 4S and WS are examples of accepted tests and so Avant was happy to provide it for free to the Amala students. It is one way to showcase the power of multilingualism. Another Amala Kakuma Refugee Camp student wrote that “the test helps us to improve in languages. It also helps me to find words of the English language and improve my spelling of words.” The goal is to increase proficiency in whatever new language they wish to study by providing them with a real life proficiency score and also feedback on how to improve. The hope is to bridge the gap in quality education provision for displaced youth.

 

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James Mattiace is a longtime educator working as a teacher and administrator in both the United States of America and international schools for over 25 years. He is a PTC graduate and currently on a year sabbatical exploring new projects and ideas.




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Comments

11/22/2023 - James Dalziel
I was thrilled to see Amala featured in this edition of The International Educator. Well done Mia and Polly and your amazing Amala team for all that you are doing to use education as a force for positive and sustainable change. It's inspiring.

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