Education beyond the classroom: AKA Maputo launches IB MYP | Aga Khan Academies

Education beyond the classroom: AKA Maputo launches IB MYP

On a typical school morning at the Aga Khan Academy in Maputo, Mozambique, 22 grade 6 and 7 students stream into their Middle Years Programme (MYP) classrooms, exuberant and buoyant. They come to class bringing their vigor and their love of “learning how to learn.” They embrace wholeheartedly the collaborative approach to teaching and learning in their classes and actively participate in constructing ideas and narratives, based on the concepts they learn.

The MYP is one of the programmes in the International Baccalaureate (IB) continuum of learning for primary and secondary students. The programme is designed to help students interact effectively with the learning environments they encounter and encourages them to value learning as an essential and integral part of their everyday lives. The MYP was launched in the Aga Khan Academy Maputo this academic year, building on the Primary Years Programme (PYP) that is offered for students up to grade 5. The programme trains students to engage in their own learning process. It empowers them to be inquisitive learners across a wide range of issues and ideas. The end goal? To nurture young minds to be imaginative and reflective thinkers on matters of significance locally, nationally and internationally.

The MYP is a five-year programme for grades 6 through 10, though AKA Maputo currently has only grades 6 and 7. However, according to Chris Green, who recently oversaw the start of the MYP as the interim Head of Academy, “The programme is expected to grow year to year.” As in the other schools across the Aga Khan Academies network, the framework provided by the IB is fine-tuned to meet Maputo’s local needs. As Chris notes, “Each school develops units of work, and the content is contextual to the location, culture and students’ needs.”  In Maputo, for example, students are studying the cultures of the peoples of Maputo in their Individuals and Societies classes and reading short stories by Mia Couto in Portuguese.

Spurring students to new heights

Espousing the IB philosophy that students learn best when they learn in context, i.e. when their learning experiences have meaning and are connected to their lives and the world they live in, students are trained to freely interact with their environments both inside and outside school. In addition, in order to create a common sense of purpose with the societies they live in, students actively participate in community projects and build relationships with local leaders and local groups.

“It is a great programme for them, which helps them become independent, discover and use their leadership skills, and involve themselves with their communities,” says Yasmin Khan, an educator at the Academy who came to Maputo through the secondment programme in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Education. She believes the Academy’s perspective of seeing itself as part of the local community and not an ‘island’ apart from the populace helps with this process.

This, Yasmin feels, helps students develop their sense of self and their sense of responsibility to their local community. Students are also encouraged to be reflective, explore global issues and learn to develop a pluralistic and open-minded outlook.

Learning for a better world through the Aga Khan Curricular Strands

At the Academy, the MYP is made richer because it incorporates the Aga Khan Curricular Strands of ethics, pluralism, governance and civil society, economics for development and cultures across the curriculum. Current Head of Academy Michael Spencer believes that the MYP’s emphasis on community action as service learning, which deepens students’ understanding of the Strands, is one of its biggest strengths. “Throughout the programme students are encouraged to explore and participate in meaningful and relevant projects, individually and in groups, that enable them to understand how they can take action to improve their communities,” Michael explains. “They learn that with rights come responsibilities.”

Thus far, the programme has received excellent marks from the students. Highly determined and inspired, the students have embraced the curriculum wholeheartedly and have praised it along with their teachers. Yasmin says the students bring a sense of passion, a thirst for knowledge and an awareness of purpose to their classrooms.

“From the outset, I have been captivated by students’ energy and enthusiasm,” Yasmin says. The Academy recently took an informal survey to listen the voices of students regarding the MYP. Here are some of their responses:

“The Aga Khan Academy Maputo is different from other schools because here we are united: we always help each other; we value the diversity of culture and opinions; we respect each other and there is no discrimination,” said one student.

“The Academy is helping me to be a good person by teaching me how to behave and to share my ideas, feelings and knowledge,” another student declared.

“The Aga Khan Academy Maputo is the best school I have ever been to. Here, we are friends with everyone, no matter how different we are. There is zero tolerance for bullying and putdowns. This makes me feel very safe to learn and participate in class and after school activities,” replied yet another student.

Says Yasmin, “Although the Middle Years Programme in Maputo is at its early stage, the interest and the energy of the students and staff that I have observed points to a promising potential for strengthening and enriching connections with local institutions and communities as the Academy expands.”

Thus far, according to the MYP teachers, “The students’ way of thinking ‘outside the box’, especially when exposed to inquiry learning has fired their imaginations, empowering their curiosity and driving their research skills and ‘I wonder if’ questions.” Students are developing the skills and dispositions to be creative thinkers, lifelong learners and leaders.

By Perviz Walji