Bringing Malala's Story into the Classroom

With several of today's current events and issues affecting not just one country but many, global education has become more important now than ever before. Today’s youth is more knowledgeable about current events than any other generation before them thanks to the media. Furthermore, film, television and other media platforms can provide an immediate and immersive window to a better understanding of the world and the issues impacting all of us. For more than a decade, the nonprofit Journeys in Film has made it their mission to combine global films with standards-based lesson plans to inspire and engage students in learning. Joanne Ashe, the founder and executive director of Journeys in Film, tells us more about the organization and its latest projects in the Q&A below.

What is Journeys in Film’s vision for today’s classroom?

Joanne Ashe:  Today’s youth faces a variety of critical issues both domestically and internationally, and our ability to meet these challenges will be strengthened by a greater understanding of global interdependence. Journeys in Film believes that helping America’s youth develop this kind of worldview and understanding should be a primary 21st century educational goal. Our educational program has proven to be effective in connecting cultures, broadening worldviews, teaching for global competency, and building a new paradigm for best practices in education.

What are some of your more recent supplemental film teaching tools offered in order to attain these goals?

JA:  In addition to finding films that are meaningful, mind-expanding, age-appropriate, and provocative, we also provide a variety of products and services with our overall mission in mind. For example, our new learning guides, based on the documentary He Named Me Malala, provide an excellent opportunity for thought-provoking classroom discussions and activities. The free downloadable Curriculum Guide includes 10 lesson plans that cover a variety of subjects, from English and filmmaking to social studies and geography. Our corresponding Discussion Guide serves as a tool to help continue the conversation based on He Named Me Malala while covering a variety of topics, including the fight for girls’ education. Educators can learn more about the documentary and download the accompanying guides at

What is the storyline and main message of He Named Me Malala?

JA:  The new, compelling documentary, directed by Academy Award-winning director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman), is based on the courageous life of Malala Yousafzai, a teen who captured the world’s attention when she was shot in the head by members of the Taliban while riding home on the school bus in Pakistan’s Sweet Valley in 2012. Malala’s recovery was closely followed by media outlets around the globe, and in 2014 she became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate at the age of 17. Now, we have the opportunity to take an intimate look at Malala’s inspirational story on the big screen through her documentary.

What makes Malala’s story unique is her courageous fight after the horrific attack. Malala began to use the international attention she attracted to advocate for the cause of girls’ education worldwide. Through her speeches, her autobiography I Am Malala, the work of her fund, and her travels to places where girls’ education is in crisis, she has continued to focus on the effort to give all girls safe schools, qualified teachers, and the materials they need to learn. Malala’s story and documentary serve as a great example for learning about everyone’s right to a quality education and about developing a dedication to ensuring human rights around the globe.

Why is it particularly important to incorporate films such as He Named Me Malala in today’s classroom discussion?

JA:  Malala’s story proves that children and teenagers are capable of making great changes in their communities and beyond. And with the help of our curriculum guides, discussion guides, and educators, youth have the opportunity to learn about issues affecting them today, to explore additional resources, and to seek ways to make a change in their own community and beyond.

When and where will the documentary be opening?

JA: The documentary will be opening on October 9 in the United States and worldwide in November. And for teachers interested in taking their students to see the documentary in theaters, the Malala Fund (Malala’s nonprofit organization that aims to empower girls through education) is providing free school field trips for students to see the film in 25 cities across the United States. To learn more about this opportunity, please visit

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