The new cohorts of students enrolled on the Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities (GPISH) and the Secondary Teacher Education Programme (STEP) have arrived at the IIS and are beginning their studies. These students were selected from a large pool of applicants and have been awarded scholarships to pursue postgraduate degrees, learning from some of the leading scholars in Ismaili and Shi‘i studies.
Thirteen students from Afghanistan, Canada, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, United Kingdom and the USA have commenced the GPISH programme. Another 20 students from Canada, India, Pakistan, Tanzania and the USA have been admitted to STEP.
STEP is a joint initiative between the IIS and the Institute of Education, University of London, to train teachers for the delivery of the Institute’s Secondary Curriculum materials, which has been specifically developed for the religious education of Ismaili Muslim children. During the two-year programme, STEP students undertake courses at the University of London’s Institute of Education and the IIS. Upon completion of the programme, they will gain two postgraduate qualifications: a Masters in Teaching (MTeach) and a Masters in Education (Muslim Societies and Civilisations). Having qualified as secondary-level teachers, the graduates will go on to undertake teaching positions with the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Boards in their home countries.
Alykhan Dhanani, who joins this year’s STEP cohort aged 24 years from Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, said:
“My undergraduate degree was in Business and Information Technology, but teaching was my passion. So, to fulfil this passion of mine, I joined the religious education committee and served as a volunteer teacher. I had a desire to develop my teaching skills in religious education and therefore I chose to apply to STEP. The programme will enable me to learn more, work with people from different cultures and challenge myself to greater heights and achievements to share knowledge and serve my community.”
GPISH is a three-year graduate programme, the first two years of which act as preparation for a research degree and a stepping stone to a variety of career opportunities. Past graduates have pursued careers in a wide range of fields including media, academia, education and development. During the first two years at the IIS, GPISH students take a variety of courses in art, philosophy, religious studies, history and the social sciences. At the end of the first year, they have the opportunity to travel for an Arabic or Persian immersion programme to assist them in studying primary academic sources in these languages.
Students spend their third-year studying for a Masters degree in subjects resonating with the aims of the programme. Past graduates have pursued Masters Degrees at leading universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, the London School of Economics and Political Science, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and the Institute of Education (IOE) at the University of London.
Reflecting on the first few weeks of her experience, Ummekulsoom Lalani from USA, who joins this year’s GPISH cohort, said:
“GPISH allows me to not only to learn about my faith but also gain the tools to be an active agent for change and a servant leader in my community and country. Since the day I arrived in London, I have been stunned by the diversity amongst my classmates and other students at the IIS. This diversity and structure of the programme allows us to have on-going conversations in and out of the classroom setting in order to gain a better understanding of Muslim societies and discuss contemporary issues affecting Muslims. I am looking forward to further developing relationships with my peers and pursuing my passion in the History of Islamic Art and Muslim Civilisations.”
Dr. Laila Halani, Acting Head of Graduate Studies at the IIS, expressed her expectations and aspirations for the students in the following words:
“As these thirty-three students from eight countries embark on one of the most important and probably life changing journeys of their life, I hope they can benefit from the scholarship and resources available to them at the IIS, IOE and the academic community in the UK, while enjoying the vibrant cultural life of London. As this journey takes them to uncharted and challenging territories, they will have the opportunity to learn as much from each other as from the scholars and educators who will guide them in their journey.”