Nine students from seven different countries have commenced the GPISH programme and an additional 32 students from ten countries have joined 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 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.
Zakhina Nazarova, who joins this year’s STEP cohort, aged 29 years, from Dushanbe, Tajikistan, said: “I studied engineering for my degree but soon after I graduated I came to realise it wasn’t my passion or true purpose in life. I was lucky enough to experience teaching through Ismaili religious education centres and summer camps and then went on to do some teaching at a secular school in Badakshan. Being able to teach, making even a small difference to someone’s life, makes me incredibly happy. STEP is the ideal programme for me, as it allows me to pursue my passion for teaching and for studying Islam.”
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 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.
Shamsuddin Hemani, who joins this year’s GPISH cohort aged 21 years and originally from New York, USA, said: “I am looking forward to learning about the diverse cultures within Islam and pursuing my dream of learning Arabic so I can gain a better understanding from original texts and manuscripts in the realm of Islam. I also hope to learn how to make a difference and contribute to the wider society by becoming an ambassador of positive change. In GPISH, I feel both my passion of serving the community as well as gaining a deeper understanding of my faith will be realised.”
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.
Dr. Fayyaz Vellani, Head of Graduate Studies at the IIS said: “I am pleased to welcome the new GPISH and STEP students to the IIS. The programmes continue to evolve and improve year on year and we hope that students will make the most of the opportunity. Not only will they be taught by some of the best scholars on Shi'i Islam, but they also have the chance to learn from their fellow students from across the globe.”