Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Redefining education: Aga Khan Academies make students the future leaders

By Syed Akbar
Mombasa (Kenya): “How to save water?” This simple yet
complicated question has evoked about four dozen different answers
from eight-year-old students. Some of the answers were quite
innovative and scientific that one cannot expect from the students of
class III in a backward town in Africa.

The Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa has made all the difference to the way
students learn or know the things around them. The Academy, the first
of several such institutions planned by the Aga Khan Development
Network the world over, has successfully created alternatives to rote
teaching and recitation. As a result, students as young as class I
come out with their own answers to practical problems, without the
teacher prompting them.

The Academy has taken the IB (international baccalaureate) programme
to a new level, giving it a new definition. Students are taught
education beyond the IB syllabus and the five strands of His Highness
Aga Khan teaches students how to face the world and stand up to the
challenges the world throws up from time to time.

According to Rob Burrough, head of Academy, the aim is to change
society through education. “Education is a creative, joyful process
that engenders hope and curiosity. The Aga Khan Academy strives for
the development of the whole person - mind, body and spirit. The
learning environment is designed to enhance the students’ academic
excellence, their sense of civic responsibility and service, their
understanding of global issues, and their analytical and independent
learning skills,” he points out.

The Academy is offering financial aid to a little over 100 students
and offering them excellent education. It is also training teachers of
nearby government schools. As against the global IB ranking average of
29, the Academy has secured 32.4.

The Aga Khan Academy in Hyderabad is the second of the series of
institutions to be operational after the one in Mombasa. Says John
Pudderfoot, head of Aga Khan Academy in Hyderabad, “the academy breaks
the stranglehold of traditional teaching and gives other teachers and
schools a model and the means to overcome the fear that accompanies
educational change”.

“At the heart of academies educational method lies child-centered
learning and intelligent, interactive inquiry. Students find out for
themselves how the world works, where they came from, how social and
political systems operate, and why environmental issues matter. The
international curriculum, which has such an educational method to its
heart, is the international baccalaureate,” adds John.

Academies director Salim Bhatia says the Aga Khan Academy has taken
the IB syllabus to a new level through the five education strands of
His Highness the Aga Khan.

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