Matola, Mozambique, 25 June 2004 - His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims, today joined President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique in announcing the creation of the Aga Khan Academy, Maputo, an academic centre of excellence which will be the second of some twenty being established by the Aga Khan Development Network across Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia.
“To educate is a task that belongs to us all,” said President Chissano, calling “the promotion of quality education for all Mozambicans, a prime condition in the struggle against poverty in our country.” It was, he said, “a contribution towards an increasingly fairer and more balanced society.”
Echoing the thought, the Aga Khan noted that the education that the Academies will offer, will be one that “values differences of outlook, ethnicity, religion and culture..in the interest of justice and fairness but also because a temperament receptive to pluralism helps creativity, curiosity, inquiry to thrive in sharing the best of human knowledge and talent from whatever individual, or group, it originates.”
“The developing world now increasingly recognises,” said the Aga Khan, “that there are areas of national life, particularly economics and education, which require the dedicated leadership of professional specialists who are not burdened by the baggage of dogma. “The conviction that home-grown intellectual leadership of exceptional calibre is the best driver of a society’s destiny,” he continued, “underpins the Ismaili Imamat’s endeavour to create catalytic centres of educational excellence.”
The Aga Khan noted that governments everywhere were now beginning to appreciate the contribution of not-for-profit private providers of social services to address the challenges of rising expectations that compounded historically unmet needs. “International partnerships in education are increasingly seen as vehicles for introducing best practices, tried and tested,” he said. “Such partnerships also expand the pool of much needed resources to invest in quality, particularly at the secondary and tertiary levels, so that “educational institutions are able to form the best minds in their own countries.”
“A major goal of the Academies,” the Aga Khan noted, would be “to restore the public standing of the teaching profession so that future generations of educated men and women come to see in teaching a great, valid and rewarding opportunity in life.” The Academies would, he continued, “have built-in provisions to foster teacher development in association with the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development.” Each Academy will incorporate a Professional Development Centre for teacher training and curricular innovation at all affiliated institutions. Each Centre will function not only for the benefit of the Academy but extend modern teaching and learning methods to government and private schools locally and regionally.
The Aga Khan Academies will feature a curriculum based on the International Baccalaureate (IB) and will benefit from the intellectual and programmatic resources of the Aga Khan University and the University of Central Asia. To ensure access regardless of socio-economic status or other limiting factors, admission to the Academies will be merit-based and means-blind. Faculty will within a specified period, be required to have taught in at least two Academies to maintain their teaching positions. Similarly, advanced students will be required to have completed courses at two Academies before receiving a diploma.
Whilst, in an effort to encourage global reach, English will be the medium of instruction, the curriculum will include mastery in more than one language to encourage students to be bilingual, and even trilingual. In addition, students would specialise in the fields of knowledge most required for the development of their own and neighbouring societies, within the context of a broad and meaningful education. “This will embrace the sciences and the humanities, including music and art, while the teaching of history and world civilisations will seek to portray, in a more balanced and comprehensive way, the world’s heritage,” added the Aga Khan.
Making reference to the founding by his Fatimid predecessors of Al Azhar University and the Academy of Knowledge in Cairo some thousand years earlier, the Aga Khan observed how “in the Islamic tradition, they viewed the discovery of knowledge as a way to understand, so as to serve better God’s creation, to apply knowledge and reason to build society and shape human aspirations.” Calling the Academies “a continuing articulation of this vision,” the Aga Khan said these were “a statement of great hope in the power of good education, and an investment in the development of the best minds who will enable future generations to take charge of their own destinies.”
The first of the Academies was opened last December in Mombasa, Kenya and others are planned for Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Mali, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and Syria.
Notes: The Aga Khan Academies are part of the Aga Khan Education Services (AKES), which currently operates more than 300 schools and advanced educational programmes that provide quality pre-school, primary, secondary, and higher secondary education services to more than 54,000 students in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Uganda, Tanzania, and Tajikistan. Schools are also envisaged, or under development, in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique and Syria. The Aga Khan Development Network is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies whose mandates range from the fields of health and education to architecture, rural development and the promotion of private-sector enterprise. Its agencies and institutions, working together, seek to empower communities and individuals, often in disadvantaged circumstances, to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in Africa and Asia.