The fifth cohort of the Institute’s Secondary Teacher Education Programme (STEP) celebrated their achievements at a graduation ceremony held at the Ismaili Centre, London, on 5th April 2014. Students from Canada, France, India, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates and USA graduated at the ceremony with a double Master’s degree: an ) MA in Education (Muslim Societies and Civilisations and an MTeach (Master of Teaching). Both these degrees are awarded by the Institute of Education (IOE), at the University of London.
This year, twelve graduates received distinctions, while four received double distinctions. In addition, four graduates received a commendation letter to highlight their exceptional performance. Awarding the graduates with their certificates were Dr Farhad Daftary, Co-Director of the IIS, and Professor Richard Andrews, Dean of the Faculty of Learning and Children at the IOE.
The commencement address was delivered by Professor Richard Pring, Professor of Education at the University of Winchester. Professor Pring has a long-standing affiliation with the Aga Khan Development Network, particularly with the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development. In his address, he emphasised the importance of the field of education and the role of teachers, stating that “Knowledge is based upon one generation building upon the knowledge of a previous generation. The sciences of today are on the shoulders of the sciences of yesterday… this is what teaching at its best should really be, introducing the next generation to that conversation.”
Professor Pring went on to describe the correlations he could see between His Highness the Aga Khan’s vision of “a broad and meaningful study of the humanities” and the role of STEP. Throwing light on this subject, Professor Pring stated, “It is through the humanities that young people are going to learn what it means to be human. The enterprise that you have been engaged in here, is really developing knowledge and moral qualities that will enable you to go on and enable young people to become human.”
Anil Ali was the recipient of the fifth annual ‘Outstanding STEP Student Award,’ for his excellent performance in both degrees. Anil, who is from the USA, was also valedictorian this year. In sharing his reflections on his experience, he said:
“Ultimately, I believe that being a teacher is about inspiring our students to become producers of knowledge so that they are able to find innovative solutions to both old and new problems. It is about igniting a spark of motivation and cultivating their natural curiosity to learn. If we are to achieve these goals, our classes must be places where students feel excited and get a sense of adventure throughout the lessons – the sorts of adventures we went through while being in STEP. I believe that STEP has prepared us well to achieve this task by providing a good balance between content and pedagogy, between theory and practice and between classroom and experiential learning.”
“Our trips to Spain and Cairo enabled us to witness the richness of Muslim heritage and experience the cultures in which Muslims lived in the past. Furthermore, it allowed us to understand how these traditions have evolved over time. In a sense, through these explorations we were able to ‘live’ history and make sense of our historical roots and pathways for the future. All of this knowledge and experience will no doubt be valuableas we go forward in life. Ultimately, the most important thing we take away, however, is how to build relationships and work together as a community of learners, while respecting each other’s differences.”
The ceremony concluded with a musical performance by Sama, a dynamic group of talented musicians who created a fusion of western and eastern classical music traditions. The core musicians of this group are students and alumni from the Institute’s GPISH programme.