30 October 2002
Please also see: Press Release
Your Excellency Governor Kasiev
Your Excellency Minister Aitmatov
Honourable Mayor Satibaldive
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.
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.
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.
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