The fourth cohort of the Institute’s Secondary Teacher Education Programme (STEP) celebrated their achievements at the annual graduation celebration at the Ismaili Centre in London on 6th April 2013. This was followed by their formal graduation ceremony at the Institute of Education’s (IOE) Logan Hall on 8th April 2013. Students from Canada, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan and the USA graduated at the ceremony with a double Master's degree: a MA in Education (Muslim Societies and Civilisations) and an MTeach (Master of Teaching).

The Keynote Address at the celebration programme at the Ismaili Centre was delivered by Dr Farid Panjwani, Director at the Centre for Research and Evaluation in Muslim Education at the IOE. Speaking about the programme, Dr Panjwani said: "STEP is a very interesting programme because it educates the students not only in teaching a particular religious tradition within a community but also familiarises them with critical scholarship on religious tradition. This is a pioneering effort, particularly in a Muslim context."

A congratulatory message was delivered by Ms Katharine Vincent, STEP Programme Leader at the IOE after which students were presented with their certificates by Professor Afzal Ahmed, a member of the Institute’s Board of Governors.

Farah Manji received the Outstanding STEP student award for excellent performance in both her MA and MTeach. Overall, six students received a distinction in either their MA or MTeach and 6 students received commendation letters for excellent results in one of their degrees.

During the graduation celebration, two students from the graduating cohort gave testimonials on their experience of being a part of the programme. Speaking about her experiences, Farah Manji, from Canada said:

“There is so much I have gained from the STEP programme, but perhaps the most significant thing I was taught was to make a conscious effort to unlearn everything I thought I knew, and instead look at each and every moment afresh, each and every encounter anew, as though I were encountering it for the first time. This practice made it possible for me to encounter difference on a variety of levels and gain deep exposure through meaningful interactions with others, ultimately broadening my intellectual, emotional and spiritual horizons, all the while nurturing a greater appreciation for diversity.”

Faheem Hussain, from Pakistan, said:

“After two years of STEP I am left with many sights and insights. Our course lectures, seminars, required readings and field trips were aimed to develop the ‘sight’ component. This component allowed me to remove the curtains of stereotypes and generalisations. It was like opening different windows for you and showing a way to explore life. The other side of the programme gave me a chance to experience life in a new context, with new people. It had moments that inspired me towards history, literature, different cultures and art.”

One of the highlights of the IIS celebration event was a musical performance by Sama, a band comprising an eclectic group of musicians (who are also students of the Institute’s GPISH programme) who blend Western and Eastern classical music traditions.

The graduates have now taken up full-time employment positions as Secondary Teachers with Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Boards in their home countries, where they are responsible for the implementation of the IIS’ Secondary Curriculum.