In the face of COVID-19, new tools and pedagogical approaches – in mathematics and science, for example – have been important parts of translating lessons into learning that can happen at home.
However, it should be noted that the “new” virtual tools are built on face-to-face workshops between educators that date back to 2018. They are also based on pedagogical tools that helps students solve problems that emerge – or which already exist – such as poverty, climate change, pandemics, peace and security.
Providing such an education is the intended product of the partnership between the Aga Khan Education Services in Central Asia and the Aga Khan Education Board (AKEB) in the United Kingdom. As part of AKES efforts to strengthen teachers and ensure that students gain entry to top international tertiary education institutions, the aim of the teacher collaboration project is straightforward: to enhance and enrich the pedagogical skills of AKES teachers.
“The project is a unique opportunity for Tajik, Kyrgyz and UK educators to engage in sharing experiences and learning from one another,” says Nafisa Gulshaeva, Head of Academics at AKES Central Asia. “The active participation we have been observing in the training and the follow up component of the programme is a strong indicator of success of the programme for us.”
“It gives educators across different global regions the chance to come together and learn from each other,” says Sugra Alibhai, project lead of the AKEB UK team.
Since the partnership began in 2018, educators from the UK have supported teachers and school leaders from the Aga Khan Lycée in Khorog, Tajikistan, and the Aga Khan School in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. Their primary focus has been the exchange of best practices in the teaching of mathematics and the sciences at the secondary level, as well as strengthening the instructional leadership skills and theoretical and practical knowledge of local educators.
Professional development has been conducted through formal face-to-face workshops in both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. To ensure the period spent together is targeted to teacher needs, considerable planning and sharing occurs on both sides before the UK team arrives in Central Asia. After the in-country intensive, scheduled follow-up calls and online coaching and connections, teachers are given time to consolidate what has been learnt in the workshops and for the new skills to be tried in classrooms.
To date, over 40 AKES teachers have been directly involved in the teacher collaboration initiative. In turn, they have benefited over a thousand AKES students. The programme has also created a ripple effect beyond those teachers to colleagues who are keen to try out the new skills.
“The training greatly expanded my understanding around diverse approaches to teaching sciences and how those approaches can be used to maximise opportunities for our students to learn practical science,” said Khudonazarova Nozanin, a science teacher at the Aga Khan Lycée in Khorog. “In a way, it was beautifully executed to bring together research and practice. I have learnt a lot; however, there is still more to learn, practice, [and] reflect upon.”
Meanwhile, the fruit of the face-to-face workshops has students grateful for the contact with the teachers during lockdowns. “Despite the challenges we face in a lockdown,” says Zhannat Karasheva, aged 13, from the Aga Khan School in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, “we are so happy to be busy with remote learning and meeting virtually with our teachers and friends”.