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 was inaugurated in Mombasa, Kenya on December 20, 2003 in presence of the President of Kenya, Mr. Mwai Kibaki. 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. Proficiency in at least two languages, with English as the medium of instruction, and progressive mastery of information technologies will also be hallmarks of the programmes. To ensure access regardless of socio-economic status or other limiting factors, admission to the Academy is merit-based and means-blind. “An education must equip students with the tools that enable them to adapt, and thrive, in a world characterized by change,” the Imam has said. “In such an environment, technical proficiency is not enough. Education that prepares children for life must go beyond fundamental skills to stimulate creativity, intellectual curiosity and honest inquiry. Advancement and development, both personal and societal, are dependant on these elements. Innovation and progress arise from the ability to approach a challenge in a new way and offer a solution.”
The foundation stone of the second Aga Khan Academy was laid on June 25, 2004 in Maputo, Mozambique in presence of the President Chissano. In his speech, the Imam said, “A thousand years ago, my forefathers, the Fatimid Imam-Caliph of Egypt, founded al-Azhar University and the Academy of Knowledge in Cairo. 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.”
In addition to Mombasa and Maputo, 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, 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 Salamia in Syria and Bamako in Mali.
The Academies will all feature residential campuses designed by renowned architects. They will have 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 counseling 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.
Each Academy will incorporate a Professional Development Centre for teachers that focuses on professional development for teachers 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.
These efforts are underpinned by the International Academic Partnership, which brings together the worldwide resources of the Aga Khan Education Services, Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, USA, Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED) in Karachi, Pakistan, and the Schule Schloss Salem, in Salem, Germany. Since its founding in 1993, the IAP has linked over 400 schools in Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Uganda and the United States.