This is the fourth in a series about the Aga Kahn Development Network. Earlier I wrote about the Aga Kahn Fund for Economic Development, the Aga Kahn Foundation and the Aga Kahn Agency for Microfinance. Now, I want to tell you about the Aga Khan Education Services (AKES).
AKES at this time operates over 300 schools and advanced educational programs that provide quality pre-school, primary, secondary, and higher secondary education services to students in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Kenya,Uganda, Tanzania, and Tajikistan.
Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan, III, established the foundations of the present system of leadership in educational development that the Ismaili Imamat continues today. In the first half of the 20th century over 200 schools were established.
In 1905, the first was established in Zanzibar. A year later, schools were opened in Dar es Salaam in 1906. And in 1907 schools were opened in Mundra, India. (It is noted on the AKES website that a number of schools opened in Mundra were subsequently nationalised following Indian independence.)
Also, institutions of higher education were established in India, and North and East Africa with the support of Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah.
Since those early beginnings, AKES has grown to become one of four agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network supporting education and its development. The other three agencies are the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), the Aga Khan University (AKU), and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC).
In addition to the 300 schools that it currently operates, AKES is also developing new schools in Kyrgyzstan and Madagascar and studying the feasibility of services and facilities in Mozambique.
Since the early-1980s AKES has built programs into its system to improve educational quality. According to the AKES web site: “Field-based teacher training was launched in Pakistan's Northern Areas in 1983. School improvement experiments began at the same time in Sindh province in Pakistan, where AKES introduced child-centred teaching methods, and in Tanzania, where new techniques for secondary school teaching in English, mathematics, and science were implemented in Dar es Salaam. AKES, Kenya has been the Development Network pioneer in the use of computers in the classroom, while many Network initiatives in pre-school education began in AKES, India.”
Some of these experiments have been carried out in government schools as well as in AKES institutions. And this contributes to the improvement of education generally in the countries in which AKES operates.
The educational approach of AKES is committed to achieving excellence by the continuous improvement of its programs, services and processes. Perhaps the most important factor in creating a successful future for generations that will have to cope with a rapidly changing environment is the offering of a superior education to students.
Child-centred teaching methods; a special emphasis on female education; school-based teacher training and the continuing pursuit of excellence in educational practice and management in diverse and challenging settings are the leading characteristics of the work of the Aga Khan Education Services.
The major initiatives currently employed throughout the system include:
- the introduction of computers and distance learning to supplement teaching and improve learning methods;
- the improvement of physical infrastructure, particularly of community-based schools;
- advanced teacher training through the Institute for Educational Development at the Aga Khan University;
- an East African education initiative to facilitate coordination of programmes, identification of best practices and quality educational initiatives, advancement of policy dialogue on privatisation of schools, improvement in teacher training and retention, and acceleration of computer-assisted educational methods;
- development of English language and economics programmes at selected universities in Central Asia, through the Aga Khan Education Fund; and
- collaboration with a leading private school in the USA - Phillips Academy, Andover - to improve AKES programmes in science, mathematics, economics, English language and technology.
While AKES has educational institutions in several countries, I will only be able to mention a few in this article.
In East Africa AKES has educational programs in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Some of these schools have been in existence since the mid-twentieth century. In all three of these countries, AKES operates as a not-for-profit agency and the services it provides are often subsidised. “AKES works through national service companies in each of the East African countries and cooperates with government agencies, non-governmental organisations, and national and international universities.”
AKES operates some 28 schools of high quality in East Africa.
In Kenya the Aga Khan Education Service, Kenya (AKES,K) operates a total of 13 schools in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Eldoret, from nursery to senior secondary education in both the national and international curricula. The AKES web site states that: “A central office manned by professional educators, financial staff, and specialists in information technology supports 380 teachers in overseeing the education of some 6,000 students. The central office collaborates with the schools in developing quality programmes, as well as ensuring financial and administrative discipline.”
AKES,K invests heavily in the training of its teachers. Teacher exchange programmes with the Phillips Academy in the US, Masters degree programmes in education with British universities and with the Aga Khan University in Karachi are supplemented by ongoing, in-house, in-service, programmes for all levels of teachers and school leaders.
The first of a planned network of Aga Khan Academies dedicated to expanding access to education of an international standard of excellence in Asia and Africa is to be inaugurated in Mombasa, Kenya.
The network of Academies will feature a curriculum based on the framework of the International Baccalaureate (IB). At the centre of this approach is a broad education in the humanities from pre-primary years through to higher secondary. The Academies will also feature a robust system of international student and teacher exchanges between Academies in different countries as well as with allied schools, including Phillips Academy in the United States and the Schule Schloss Salem in Germany.
In addition to Mombasa, schools are planned for Nairobi in Kenya, as well as Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Kampala in Uganda, Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Antananarivo in Madagascar, Maputo in Mozambique, Dhaka in Bangladesh, Mumbai and Hyderabad in India, Karachi in Pakistan, Kabul in Afghanistan, Osh in the Kyrgyz Republic, Khorog and Dushanbe in Tajikistan, Damascus and Salamieh in Syria and Bamako in Mali.
The Academies will all feature residential campuses with well-equipped laboratories for general science, physics, biology, chemistry, home science and computers, art and music rooms, a library and resource centre, a religion and culture room, a counselling facility, a design and technology workshop, student and teacher lounges, a theatre, a multipurpose hall and a cafeteria and dining area. Facilities for sports will include swimming pools, fields for athletics such as soccer, hockey and athletics. A gymnasium will typically house facilities for a variety of sports such as basketball, badminton, volleyball, squash and gymnastics. Other facilities might include tennis courts, a cricket pitch or an ice-skating rink, where appropriate.
The Aga Khan Education Service, Tanzania (AKES,T) operates a total of ten schools that have earned a reputation for offering quality education to Tanzanians from nursery to secondary school levels. The Aga Khan Mzizima Secondary School is rated among the top secondary schools in the country and is recognised for its outstanding examination results, particularly in the fields of science and mathematics. There is close cooperation with the Tanzanian Government in order to augment its efforts to bring education to all Tanzanians.
The Aga Khan schools in Uganda were established in the early-1930s, covering over 20 villages and towns, including Masaka, Mbale, Jinja, and Mbarara. Over the years the schools have come to be recognised as quality institutions of learning, providing education from the nursery to secondary level. The schools perform highly in national primary and secondary school examinations each year. Between 1973 and 1992, the Aga Khan schools were managed by the Government's Ministry of Education or its designates; since then the schools have begun reverting to AKES. A total student population of over 2,800 children attends these schools, with a teaching staff of over 150.
I have far exceeded the space budgeted for this article, and there is so much more to tell you. And unfortunately, I had to shorten the accounts of most of the programs. So please visit the web site of the Aga Kahn Educational Services and read about those things I did not have the opportunity to fully describe.
Aga Kahn Educational Services