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Cultivating a Comparative Perspective

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A teacher gives an undergraduate course on art and experience based on the core, introductory humanities curriculum developed by AKHP.
Photo: Jean-Luc Ray
The demise of the Soviet Union brought with it a withdrawal of much-needed resources and a pressing need for new institutions that could respond to the dramatic changes underway in Central Asia. There was clearly a need for new educational endeavours and curricula that would both address the economic and cultural needs of the region and teach the skills needed to compete internationally. When Central Asian governments called for support in advancing teacher education and curriculum, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture established the Aga Khan Humanities Project (AKHP) in 1997 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

AKHP promotes pluralism in ideas, cultures and peoples by supporting the development and implementation of innovative humanities curricula based on the cultural traditions of Central Asia. It initiates and supports teacher training in high schools. Educators at more than 24 partner universities in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have been trained to teach AKHP courses, assess curriculum materials, coordinate student projects and conduct further teacher training.

“For much of human history, leaders were born into their roles, or they fought their way in – or they bought their way in… But social progress can be greatest when aristocracies of class give way to aristocracies of talent – or to use an even better term – to meritocracies. The well-led society of the future, in my view, will be a meritocracy – where leadership roles are based on personal and intellectual excellence.”
His Highness the Aga Khan at the Foundation Stone-Laying Ceremony of The Aga Khan Academy, Hyderabad, India, 22 September 2006
The Project also plays an active role in university curriculum and pedagogical development. In collaboration with Central Asian educators and international scholars, AKHP has produced eight interdisciplinary undergraduate anthologies, accompanied by instructors’ guides designed to facilitate teaching in the humanities. In 2007, the Aga Khan Humanities Project became an integral part of the University of Central Asia, an institution that is already linking this very remote region of the world with the global intellectual community.

AKHP’s student-centred and interactive learning methods and its emphasis on critical thinking, ethical reflections, participatory leadership and appreciation for the diversity of cultures are helping Central Asians emerge from decades of isolation to engage with the outside world on equal terms.

University of Centra Asia

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