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His Highness the Aga Khan

Speech By His Highness the Aga Khan at the Opening Ceremony of the Aga Khan School (Osh, Kyrgyz Republic)

30 October 2002

 

Please also see: Press Release

Your Excellency Governor Kasiev
Your Excellency Minister Aitmatov
Honourable Mayor Satibaldive
Your Excellencies
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great pleasure to be here in Osh today and to participate in the opening ceremony of this new Aga Khan School. I thank you for being here to share this important moment with us. It is an occasion of great significance in many ways. It is significant because of the cooperation many organisations and individuals who have made the establishment of the school and construction of this complex of buildings possible.

  • The government, at all levels -- national, provincial and local -- have made important contributions, both symbolic and very practical. Their Excellencies President Akayev and Governor Kasiev have provided encouragement throughout the process for which I am very grateful. The support provided to a private school is a visible demonstration of the government’s commitment to private initiatives in the Kyrgyz Republic and a testament to its openness and flexibility. 
  • Special mention should be made of the role of the authorities in Osh in finding a way to make the land available for the school, and of the Ministry of Education for the expeditious issuing of the licenses for its construction and operation. 
  • The Aga Khan Planning and Building Services, Pakistan, deserves mention for its many contributions to the conception and implementation of the building project.
  • I would also like to recognise the contributions of the architects and the general contractor for their ongoing efforts to complete a project that involves a number of firsts in terms of design and construction.

But the significance of this occasion extends beyond the establishment and opening of the school. The aspirations of the Aga Khan Education Services for what this school will achieve for its faculty and staff and above all for its students and their parents in the years ahead is perhaps the most important dimension.

I am sure that all of you here today will agree that we live in a time of rapid change -- change that is often not predictable, and not always positive. The best way to manage change, whether positive or negative, is to anticipate it and prepare for it. On the basis of my experience with development as an observer and a practitioner - that now spans more than forty years - I have come to the conclusion that there is no greater form of preparation for change than education. I also think that there is no better investment that the individual, parents, and the nation can make than an investment in education of the highest possible quality.

But education comes in many forms, and has been used for many purposes. An education for success in the modern world must be enabling and it must be outward looking. It must not only teach the time tested skills of reading, writing, and mathematics, which remain important, and must not only build on Central Asia’s fine tradition of encouraging students to master more than one language. Today’s students need to learn to use computers. The ability to use communication and information technology is now a critical part of the learning, as well as an essential qualification for eventual application in the workplace.

But even this is not enough. There are two more dimensions of education for the modern world about which I would like to make a few remarks. The first relates to inquisitiveness, critical thinking, and problem solving. What students know is no longer the most important measure of the quality of education. The true test is the ability to engage with what they do not know, and to work out a solution. The second dimension involves the ability to reach conclusions that constitutes the basis for informed judgements. The ability to make judgements that are grounded in solid information, and employ careful analysis should be one of the most important goals for any educational endeavour. As students develop this capacity, they can begin to grapple with the most important and difficult step: to learn to place such judgements in an ethical framework. Therein lies the formation of the kind of social consciousness that our world so desperately needs.

I hasten to add that these capacities cannot be developed quickly, nor can they be mastered at the high school level. But a beginning must be made, and starting this process should be part of the mission of this institution.

Yet another reason why the opening of the Aga Khan School in Osh today is so important. It is because of what it represents in terms of the Aga Khan Development Network, its work around the world, in Central Asia and in the Kyrgyz Republic.

  • Being part of the Aga Khan Education Services’ network means having access to a system of more than 300 high quality schools in various parts of the world, access to high quality training for teachers and school managers at the Institute of Educational Development at the Aga Khan University. It also means access to important international partners like Phillips Academy near Boston in the United States. These resources will enrich what this school can offer, and will help it achieve the very high aspirations we have for it and its graduates.
  • Later this week I will visit Naryn where the first facilities of the University of Central Asia in the Kyrgyz Republic will be located. The University of Central Asia is the first university in the world dedicated exclusively to the study of the problems and potentials of mountains and mountain people. It is my hope that the school which we are inaugurating here today will, in a few year’s time, be a significant contributor to the student body of the University.

In closing I extend my congratulations and best wishes to everyone associated with the school. When I arrived I was reminded that its cornerstone was laid in the year 2000 as part of celebration of the 3000th anniversary of the founding of the city. While the Aga Khan School was not part of that long and glorious history, it is my sincere hope that it will be an important part of this city and the Oblast for a long time into the future.

Thank you.

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