"The best residential school environments are those that expect the most of students in terms of behaviour and leadership, places where peer influence is a positive factor, and where students mature into well disciplined, principled, and happy young adults."
New Edition of the Aga Khan Academies Newsletter
Elias Okwara returns to the Academy to speak to current students
Creating leaders for civil society
Aga Khan Academy to be Established in Bangladesh
Aga Khan Urges Educators to Embrace Pluralism and Diversity in Teaching: He urges intellectual humility and pluralism as essential to a 21st Century education
Aga Khan to Build Uganda's First Aga Khan Academy: Economic development must be matched by human development
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Enhancing the curriculum of Aga Khan Academies: Aga Khan curricular strands
“...The Academies curriculum seeks to instill a habit of intellectual humility which constantly opens young minds to what it is that they do not know, and which sends them on a wide and rigorous search for new knowledge...Our curriculum also places a strong emphasis on the ethical and spiritual dimensions of life, as well as a more complex understanding of how global economics work, a focus on comparative political systems, and a broad exposure to a variety of world cultures, including the Study of Muslim Civilizations”.
His Highness the Aga Khan, Mombasa, August 2007
Using the strengths and vitality of a closely knit network of like-minded schools reflecting a plurality of contexts, the Aga Khan Academies hopes to develop bright young people of great integrity, understanding and generosity of spirit who will become the men and women who will build and lead the institutions of civil society in their native countries.
The curriculum and AK-specific strands
The Aga Khan Academies will work within the principles of IB programme frameworks, inspired by values consistent with the IB and Aga Khan Academy learner profile and the shared educational goals to stimulate creativity, intellectual curiosity and honest inquiry so that students can adapt and thrive in a world of rapid change; can make informed judgements on life’s daily challenges, and place those judgements in an ethical framework.
Using IB throughout the network will align the Academies’ programmes with known, proven international standards and frameworks that are sufficiently flexible to ensure that the Aga Khan Academies’ priorities are emphasised.
In our first Academy in Mombasa, as in all future Academies, five specific areas of focus (referred to as “AK curricular strands” in the Academies’ curriculum) are being woven into the curriculum in order to help achieve the mission to educate future leaders with the capacity to build strong civil democratic societies:
- Pluralism, a fundamental value and ethos underlying the curriculum and the whole educational experience at the Aga Khan Academies;
- Governance and civil society, recognising that Aga Khan Academy graduates will need to understand diverse forms of governance in order to help create and sustain viable, stable, inclusive forms of government in their societies;
- Economics in a global context, helping future builders and leaders of strong civil societies understand the different types, nuances and implications of global economics in order to serve their societies effectively;
- Ethics, the development of a strong moral compass and ethical framework;
- Cultures, including an emphasis on Muslim civilisations, too often neglected in school curricula. Attention to this strand recognises that it is important for students to be confident both in their own identities and traditions, and understanding of those of others around them and in the world at large.
These five specific areas are not extra subjects added alongside other disciplines taught at the Academies. Rather, they are meant to be explicitly developed and integrated into the daily reality of the school community’s life. Therefore, emphasis on these five strands does not add curriculum content as such, but it has a strong impact on pedagogical approaches: it influences the choice of themes and topics, of action and reflection on the part of teachers and students in order to develop the capacity and willingness to act in key areas of importance.
The integration of the AK strands into the fabric of the curriculum starts at a very young age, using the pedagogical principles of each IB programme. For example, the current PYP programme of inquiry in Mombasa involves grade 4 students in an exploration of the concepts of rights and responsibilities within the context of children’s rights. Students learn about the1989 UN convention on the rights of a child, consider how the concepts of rights and responsibilities can differ worldwide, and inquire into specific examples of abuses and their causes. In an effort to make a difference, they work collaboratively on a project that will help raise awareness among the school community of the plight of some children today.
The impact of the strands is not limited to the classroom: school policies, co-curricular activities and projects and everyday school life are purposefully considered through the perspectives of each of the strands. In residential schools this is particularly important, and involves teachers and students alike as communities of learners. Furthermore, as the network develops, teachers and students will explore these areas in different cultural and social contexts as they spend several months in another Academy. In addition, through technology, it is expected that teachers and learners will share practice and projects across Academies.
Development process for the AK strands
The curriculum development process has involved a collaborative approach between Mombasa Academy teachers, Academies Unit staff, experienced educators in a range of cultural contexts, and external disciplinary experts. As the first AK Academy in Mombasa inaugurates this explicit emphasis on these curriculum strands, the role of its school community has been essential in the development, early implementation and evaluation of the curriculum. Initial meetings were held in 2007, focusing on each strand in turn, though keeping in mind that the five curriculum strands are interconnected and can impact on the school curriculum in a number of ways. These meetings were followed by collaborative planning sessions in Mombasa so that teachers could understand the dimensions of the strand and start integrating some of their aspects into their teaching plans. Desired learner outcomes have been defined, course outlines and unit planners including strand-related themes, topics and objectives are being written, resources and professional development implications are being identified. Overall, much progress has been accomplished in the last two years, as the AK strands are now a vital part of the AK Academies’ curriculum.
The pilot implementation of the AK strands is now monitored and supported by an ‘AK Curriculum Advisory Committee’ including curriculum experts from other AKDN agencies and other institutions as well as Academies staff. This committee will meet yearly face to face, offer guidance and make recommendations for further development of the curriculum. The work started in Mombasa (to be extended to other Academies as they are created) will continue to involve an ongoing collaborative process of review, evaluation and further development. This methodology follows a process that is itself inquiry-based and relies on teachers to be reflective practitioners, working as an international community of learners.
The development of the AK curriculum is now embarked on a journey to help define further, and develop, the understandings, habits of mind, attitudes and values of leadership needed for today’s and tomorrow’s world.