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Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development


Recognizing the continuing decline in the quality and access to education in Pakistan and other developing countries, Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED) was established in July 1993 in Karachi, Pakistan. The Institute’s mandate is to take a lead role in educational reform through enhancing efficiency and effectiveness of educational institutions to improve quality of education in the developing countries through human resource development, institutional capacity building, outreach activities, research and dissemination and policy analysis and advocacy.

To achieve its objectives, AKU-IED is engaged in individual and institutional capacity-building through its academic and professional development programmes, research, policy studies and service activities. Its direct beneficiaries are professionals in education(teachers, teacher-educators, head teachers, educational officers, partner organizations (AKDN, government and private), professional associations and other institutions. The indirect beneficiaries include students, parents, colleague teachers, professional association members, policy makers in government and non-government organizations.

AKU-IED includes an embedded Professional Development Centre, Karachi. Its programmes and research activities are a source of attraction for students not only from Pakistan but from other parts of the developing world. The Institute  admits students purely on merit and encourages women representation in its student body.

AKU-IED’s constituencies include some of the most populous and impoverished areas. These include regions where access to basic education remains low and where gender disparities in educational access and achievements are large. In such a situation, AKU-IED tries to find ways of ‘working smarter’ by developing mechanisms for multiplier effect or impact amplification. Some of these include: role modeling; influencing public sector education policies, viewing education reform initiatives and programmes and course graduates as not only direct beneficiaries but also as active change and impact agents for others; facilitating the participation of faculty and graduates in external and outreach activities such as consultancy, textbook writing, and curriculum development; emphasizing research dissemination; supporting the Professional Teachers’ Associations Network as major impact multiplication activity.

Academic Programmes

AKU-IED offers a number of academic and professional education programmes embedded in transformational education philosophy. These programmes are offered to teachers, teacher educators, and education managers from South Asia, Central Asia and Afghanistan. The programmes include:

Recognizing the importance of developing competent and skilled researchers in the field of education, AKU-IED launched its PhD (Education) programme in 2004. The programme focuses on teaching and learning processes in the developing countries and leads the leads graduates to cultivate skills as quality educational researchers who are able to conduct research relevant to the developing world with a focus on curricula, teaching, learning and leadership. To date, four  scholars have graduated from the PhD programme while seven are in the process of completing their studies. 

AKU-IED launched its flagship programme, Master of Education (MEd) in 1994. The programme was developed and delivered in association with Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada; and the Department of Education, University of Oxford, UK. The aim of the MEd programme is to produce leaders in education who have a strong commitment to educational change, ability to critically analyze situations and well-developed communication skills. The programme facilitates the graduates’ re-entry in their respective educational institutions as ‘change agents’ by creating a ‘critical mass’ for a ‘multiplier effect’. In their professional capacity, the graduates help their fellow colleagues in improving their practices, knowledge and attitude to bring about sustainable change. To-date, 491 PDTs  have completed the MEd programme. These graduates are working in Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Bangladesh, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Syria and Afghanistan. A tracking study of MEd graduates indicates that the majority of graduates are working in the field of education and holding leadership positions in their respective systems.

AKU-IED’s Certificate in Education and Advanced Diploma Programmes target practicing teachers and ensures their continuous engagement with their respective classrooms through a strong field-based component. To date, 595 teachers, teacher-educators and head teachers have been developed through the Advanced Diploma programmes, whereas approximately 6,500 teachers and others have been developed through certificate programmes. The Institute’s certificate programmes have been offered not only in Pakistan but also in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Syria and Central Asia. Several impact studies show that upon returning to their respective systems, these teachers have been instrumental in introducing innovative practices and focus on the ‘child’ in their classrooms, which has brought about improved student learning outcomes.


AKU-IED places significant importance on its research and scholarship activities. A Research and Policy Studies (RAPS) unit has been established at the institute to facilitate and maximize research productivity and to assist policy makers in taking account of research findings in their policy development. One of the major aims of this initiative is to develop an internationally recognized research capacity in areas such as impact studies of teacher education; community participation in education; classroom action research; educational leadership; gender in education; and citizenship education. The Institute has received external funding for such research initiatives from AKF; the aid agencies of Canada, Norway and the USA; the European Community; Comic Relief; Save the Children; the University’s own Research Council; and the World Bank. The RAPS unit has also supports the development of policy analysis and advocacy capacity at AKU-IED. AKU-IED also has taken initiatives to assist in the development of a much stronger national research culture, through establishment of a national research association Pakistan Association of Research in Education and through formation of partnerships and linkages with national and international academia for research.


The outreach portfolio has evolved as an important component with programmatic and structural development at AKU-IED, which is most visible in the Institute’s work towards establishing and developing a network of Professional Development Centres (PDCs) in Pakistan. These Centres are institutions with an objective to maximize and amplify impact through outreach activities and University-programme offerings in regions or in school systems beyond the immediate reach of AKU-IED. They have the capacity to develop and offer their own contextually appropriate programmes. Currently, there are three PDCs across Pakistan; the on-site/embedded PDC at AKU-IED, Karachi, a PDC in Gilgit-Baltistan, and a third PDC in Chitral.

AKU-IED’s success in implementing the PDC model has also encouraged the establishment of other PDCs supported by governments, NGOs and private (not-for-profit) school systems. Presently, many of the private school systems have established their own PDCs, which are not only catering to the needs of the parent schools but also supporting their neighboring schools. In the recent years, the public-sector has also shown its interest in setting-up its own PDCs. In this regard, the Government of Sindh has initiated the process of conceptualizing the transformation of its existing teacher education institutions into PDCs. Moreover; AKU-IED was also approached by the Government of Syria to assist its Ministry of Education in setting-up a PDC in Damascus.

AKU-IED continues to promote professional networking of teachers, teacher educators to provide them with a platform to continue their professional educations and at the same time interact with other professional in the fields. In this regard, AKU-IED played a key role in establishing professional associations working under an over-arching structure named Professional Teachers Associations Network (PTAN). Since its establishment, PTAN has supported the process of establishing nine professional associations namely Mathematics Association of Pakistan (MAP); Science Association of Pakistan (SAP); School Headteachers Association for Development of Education (SHADE); Association for Social Studies Educators and Teachers (ASSET); Association of Primary Teachers (APT); Pakistan Association for Inclusive Education (PAIE); Health Education Association for Learner Teachers, Health Workers (HEALTH); Association for Promoting Ethics in Education (APEE) and most recently, Early Years Learning Association (EYLA). These associations provide learning opportunities to over 2,000 participants every year by offering programmes in various areas of needs. The members of these associations give their time voluntarily, thus making this venture very cost-effective.

Partnerships and impact

AKU-IED, Pakistan partnered with the Universities of Oxford and Toronto from its inception in 1993. These two partners have provided valuable counsel on academic programmes, faculty development and research proposals. The Institute has developed links with Sheffield Hallam University, England; Institute of Education, University of London and others. AKU-IED is also partnering with the Faculty of Education, University of Alberta as part of AKU/AKDN’s Memorandum of Understanding for forging institutional partnership.

AKU-IED has been working in collaboration with the Government of Pakistan and other developing countries to help improve the quality of education in these countries. These include working with the Afghan Ministry of Education, the Syrian Ministry of Education, and public sector institutions in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, through AKF and AKES in the respective countries.

In order to work closely with the public sector for capacity building in Pakistan AKU-IED has been developing public-private partnerships. AKU-IED faculty has made a significant contribution to the development of public sector educational system in Pakistan, which has been widely acknowledged at federal, provincial and district levels. AKU-IED’s contribution in the review of national education policy, curriculum, textbook writing and conducting policy dialogues and workshops is recognized at all tiers of government.  The Institute is now considered a partner of choice and a national resource by the Government.

IED’s strategic direction

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