Re-Thinking Non-Formal Education for Armenian Teens: Putting Students in the Driver’s Seat

“At TUMO students are encouraged to explore and take charge of their own learning”

Non-formal youth education in Armenia has traditionally been teacher-centred, viewing adolescents as passive recipients of knowledge, following a fixed learning plan. TUMO has tried to reverse the roles, providing students with the necessary tools to drive their own educational experience. TUMO started its experiment in Yerevan in 2011 when it opened its doors to interested Armenian youth aged 12-18. It immediately stood out in the local educational landscape as it offered both free and flexible education at the intersection of technology & design. The typical barriers that students witness in the Armenian education system were lifted: there were no tuition fees, no grades and only limited teacher-led instruction. The resonance was astounding: in the last 7 years, over 31,000 students have enrolled at the centre in the Armenian capital. This taught us one key lesson – adolescents want to learn when given the room to structure their learning experience!


The approach adopted by TUMO is innovative in that it is based on a three-pillar educational model.  Students begin their education at TUMO with self-learning via an e-learning platform where they can choose from 14 skills ranging from computer programming and robotics to 3D modelling and game development. After having acquired basic theoretical understanding of their chosen study area, they go on to workshops, where they gain hands-on skills with the guidance of a workshop leader. At this stage, students at TUMO’s beginners’ robotic workshops would typically be building Lego robots and testing sensors while already having a basic understanding of how to programme a robot thanks to their e-learning modules. The final pillar of TUMO’s educational model builds the link between education and industry through learning labs. Hundreds of industry professionals volunteer their time to spend 2-4 weeks with TUMO students in order to work on industry-relevant projects ranging from LED lighting, to narrative architecture and cartoon animation for tourism. This final element allows students to understand how both their theoretical and practical skills can be employed on the labour market and what kind of career paths could be open to them. However, TUMO’s key objective is not to prepare students for the labour market per se, but to increase their self confidence and to encourage them to take charge of their learning. This is to help form adolescents who are confident and are not afraid of driving social change.


The demand for tailor-made, student-driven non-formal education reaches beyond the Southern Caucasus. TUMO recently opened a centre in Paris and will be represented in Beirut by the end of the month. Moreover, further franchises are foreseen in Moscow and Tirana as well as in numerous European Union and Gulf countries. While having originally been conceived of for the Armenian market, TUMO’s relevance extends beyond the Post-Soviet non-formal educational space. In few societies are youth given the opportunity to learn at their own pace and to mix and match between different modules. Moreover, access to non-formal education related to technology & design has typically been limited to a privileged few through private tuition – rarely has it been made available to large groups of adolescents. In order to further improve the educational experience of students and to personalize their curricula, TUMO is increasingly relying on artificial intelligence to optimize its educational software.


To find out more about students’ individual learning path and the e-learning software TUMO uses in the framework of their hybrid learning system, join their CEO Marie Lou Papazian in the session on Approaches to the Use of AI in Learning during OEB on Thursday December 6 from 11:45 – 13:00.

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