Nord Anglia Education
Nord Anglia
20 May, 2022

Putting the learning in ‘service-learning’ at our Budapest school

Putting the learning in ‘service-learning’ at our Budapest school - Putting the learning in service-learning at our Budapest school



Are you familiar with the concept of ‘service-learning’? In simple terms, it’s when students combine their in-school learning with service to their local communities.


This type of learning has as much to offer our students as it does the communities they serve. It empowers them to be leaders in change, and enhances their wellbeing, their attitudes to self and school, and nurtures their critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence.


More than this, it helps young people discover their passions and talents by applying themselves to address real-world problems and to make a difference in the lives of others. Although it has much in common with charity work and community service, what sets service-learning apart is the focus on the learning process and the personal growth of each student who takes part.


Students are asked to dive deeply into global issues so they can truly understand the contributing factors and any barriers to action, which allows them to build up a knowledge base to make informed decisions. It also helps develop useful skills such as collaboration, communication, problem-solving, project management, leadership, personal reflection, and empathy.






At my school, the British International School Budapest, we use service-learning for so much more than just fundraising. We aim to empower our learners with the knowledge, skills, and motivation to act on complex global issues and build a better future.


All our secondary students undertake a service-learning project every year, which involves many weeks of research and planning towards a fully student-led, week-long, coordinated programme of advocacy and action. Here are some examples:

  • Year 9 encouraged healthy habits and wellbeing by offering guided meditations, mindful colouring activities, a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders helping those affected by conflict, and tips for managing anxiety and stress.
  • Year 11 educated our community about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, encouraging young people to know and use their rights. They held workshops for Primary children and raised funds for Save the Children and You Belong, a foundation that helps disadvantaged children to access high quality education in Hungary.
  • Year 8 have been learning about biodiversity and exploring the theme of helping the environment thrive. Their action research has informed plans for a forest clean-up project in the local area.


Service-learning at our school has helped us become a hive of social impact activity. More and more, students are taking part in their own extra-curricular projects and acting on the issues they care about, which is wonderful to see.


Our Social Impact Student Union (the SISU) consists of 11 student-led groups whose work addresses a variety of environmental, economic, and humanitarian issues and is chaired by a Year 12 student. Their work this year has included:

  • Holding a sustainability fashion runway to raise awareness of the dangers of fast fashion.
  • Developing a uniform exchange programme in collaboration with the Parent-Teacher Association in the interests of sustainability.
  • A rewilding the campus project to encourage connection with nature, which won funding from Nord Anglia’s Charitable Giving Grants.
  • A collaboration with a local retailer to provide toiletry refills and reduce plastic waste.
  • Advocacy for International Women’s Day and the #breakthebias campaign.
  • Holding a debate about gender equality in childhood.
  • Advocacy and fundraising on behalf of Kiwawa Secondary School in Tanzania through our collaboration with Seeway.





Service-learning has become a fundamental part of our school culture and mindset of the young people within our community. Through serving others, they have learned about themselves and their place within society.


I’ve heard the following comments from students when discussing their involvement in service-learning activities:

  • “I’ve learned how important it is to provide a 'safe' environment so that everyone feels listened to and welcome.”
  • “I learned what great things we can achieve if we all contribute.”
  • “I think I contributed well. I used teamwork, communication and social skills. I am proud that we were able to help others.”
  • “I learned how to take initiative and responsibility for my work.”
  • “I am proud of taking up a leadership role as that is something I don't often do.”


Through my involvement with our school’s service-learning programme, I’ve observed students grow in confidence, maturity, and responsibility, and watched them discover their own potential to lead and contribute beyond the classroom.


Rather than distract or draw attention away from academics, service-learning enhances in-classroom learning as students are more engaged with their work and more motivated by seeing real world applications for their learning. As we are all part of a global network where our lives are interconnected, it’s important for us to engage with and assist our community wherever we can.


Rachel Rhodes is the Social Impact Lead at The British International School Budapest


Rachel Rhodes