On November 18, 1994, Hazar Imam attended the inauguration of the first Professional Development Centre of AKU's Institute for Educational Development by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, the Honorable Mr. Justice Sajjad Ali Shah.
In his remarks at the event, Hazar Imam emphasized that poor educational quality was "a profound problem, one that cruelly fetters the development of this country and many others." he went on to say, "Where professional competence is required to meet social need, severe problems can be expected if a key profession has low social status."
"The low status of teaching," he said, "was one of the many causes of the problem bearing on educational quality; as a consequence, it is difficult to recruit talented people into the profession, attrition results regularly among those who are the best and brightest and, finally, low status means lack of attention from outside the profession and limited allocation of resources."
AKU has long addressed a similar problems with the nursing profession through its School of Nursing, which has worked over the past 12 years to raise the status of the nursing profession and standards of care in Pakistan. "The very creation of IED highlights the important of teaching," said Hazar Imam, "and the programs of IED are crafted to amplify that message. By working with school heads, not just individual teachers, IED will try to build a new teaching environment."
Like the University's Faculty of Health Sciences, the IED's teaching and research will focus, Mawlana Hazar Imam said, on "the practical problems" of education in Pakistan and developing societies. The IED offers the opportunity to bring international competence to bear on the solution of a "complex local, but pervasive, problem," he added.
IED's first course of study for teacher educators began January 1994, planned and carried out in collaboration with the Universities of Oxford and Toronto, IED partner universities. The 22 course participants - including teachers from Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Tanzania - are currently fulfilling their nine-week residency requirements in Oxford and Toronto.
IED's first Professional Development Centre is located on the campus of Aga Khan Education Service's Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School in Karachi, which offers pre primary through secondary level schooling. It is a purpose-build structure designed to facilitate school-based teacher education. In mid 1995, its classrooms will open to IED's first Visiting Teachers, who will be drawn from government schools in Karachi as well as Aga Khan Education Schools and other private as well as government schools in Pakistan and abroad.
Hazar Imam described the goal of the Professional Development Centre's work and research as generating lessons for teaching practice that could "be abstracted and generalized for application by others elsewhere." He paid tribute to the partner universities, as well as to the donor agencies who have demonstrated their commitment to IED';s approach to teacher education with their generous support for its first six-year development period - notably the European Union, UNDP, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and AKF.
The Honorable Mr. Justice Sajjad Ali Shah congratulated the leadership of AKU and in particular the direction provided by Mawlana Hazar Imam, which led to the establishment of AKU's first new program beyond the Health Sciences. He said it was a source of great hope that about a third of the Master Teachers being trained under IED's program were from government schools, and that this important venture would definitely contribute toward raising educational standards in Pakistan and other developing countries.
CONVOCATION In the shad of a colorful shamiana, an audience of almost 10,000 gathered to witness the Convocation ceremonies at AKU on November 19. Striking in their variations of green and white jamiapoash, the AKU's distinctive academic regalia, students, faculty and trustees were joined in procession by distinguished visiting academicians in contrasting black and maroon gowns richly bordered in gold. Mawlana Hazar Imam, the Chief Guest, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, also in jamiapoash, and the keynote speaker, McMaster University President Dr. Geraldine Kenney-Wallace, each addressed the gathering before the presentation of diplomas.
The Aga Khan University, Hazar Imam said in his Convocation speech, is "building on a great tradition of Muslim education."
Events both within and outside the Muslim World in the last decade have meant that AKU faces a more challenging vocation as a Muslim university than it did at its founding" in 1985. Referring to the recently completed report of the AKU's Chancellor's Commission, Mawlana Hazar Imam stressed that "the need for enlightened expression of what is means to be Muslim in the 21st century will be, if anything, increased. AKU, as a Muslim University, could be a useful model for those seeking to combine secular education with Islam."
The seven-member Chancellor's Commission (comprising academicians representing, among others, Harvard, Brown, McMaster and Brunei Universities and the Institut universitaire de recherche sociologique of Morocco), he said, reaffirmed AKU's vocation as an "international university of wide consequence for the developing and Muslim worlds," whose special concern, in each of its enterprises, is with "the challenge of development." During its first 10 years, AKU had established critical strengths in the health sciences and had created the promising new Institute for Educational Development. Looking ahead, Mawlana Hazar Imam said that the University was now poised to take on other academic disciplines of particular import to the developing world: among them economic growth, human development and architecture.
One of the recommendations of the Chancellor's Commission report, presented to the Board of Trustees, is the creation of an Institute of Islamic Civilizations located possibly in Europe, within the framework of the Aga Khan University, which has an international charter. Hazar Imam asked: "Is it not by locating such a faculty in the Western world that we can best affect the Western world's view of us?" He depicted such an Institute as one whose "Utility...ought not be confined to the Muslim world and its own problems. There is the potential in the Islamic heritage to help modern societies cope with the confusions, disillusionments and moral vagaries that afflict them."
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, addressing the Convocation, commended the AKU as a "premier institution" which had "during its young 10 year history paved the way for academic excellence." Describing the role of a university in preparing the younger generation for leadership, she said, "A Muslim society should be led not by an aristocracy of wealth, but by an aristocracy of intellect."
In her keynote speech, Dr. Kenney-Wallace hailed the continuing partnership between McMaster and AKU, which she described as "responsive to Pakistan's needs and (which) builds on results of the first decade to contribute over a second decade to health care and to the development and empowerment of women in Pakistan."
(Source: Ismaili Canada March 95)
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