Karim Ismail : Empowering teachers to nurture leaders | Aga Khan Academies

Karim Ismail : Empowering teachers to nurture leaders

Joining the Academy virtually for the new academic year 2020 - 2021, our new Senior School Principal is excited to provide support to our teachers and collaborate with them in order to make as big an impact as possible as a group.

From his university days, Karim Ismail knew he wanted to work with young people and has not looked back since. Grateful for the experiences during his education, he felt compelled to share the love for learning amongst youngsters and recreate those experiences for students around the world.

“Understanding how I could ensure that other students get similar opportunities to build their character and personality made it an easy career decision,” he shared on his choice to become a teacher.

Hailing from the UK, Karim’s journey as a teacher and school leader has taken him all over the world including Kenya, Uganda, India, South Africa and Mozambique to name a few. He was working at an IB institution when he was recruited as one of the founding teachers of the Senior School at the Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad. Having worked for the Academies and other IB institutions in various leadership capacities, Karim now joins the AKA Maputo as the Senior School Principal.

Reflecting back when he held a similar role in Hyderabad, he said there are a number of reasons why it was special for him. “The time spent in Hyderabad not only gave me the opportunities to contribute towards student and teacher development but was developmental for me as a teacher and a leader as well. And I was proud to see through our first cohort of graduates in the Diploma Programme. I have very fond memories of my time in Hyderabad.”

Identifying the impact of education policy and the influence of change at a systemic level, Karim has experience in non-classroom based roles as well. He has worked with many schools in order to build on existing capacities to improve potential and has qualified to train teachers to become IB certified which is something he still does today.

“Taking the opportunity to step out of the classroom and partner with schools to focus on their institutional improvement was eye-opening. I have had the privilege of visiting excellent institutions and seeing their practices in place, and learning on each occasion. Meeting and training IB teachers from all corners of the world allows you to understand those educational contexts and their valuable diversity. Inevitably this work brought me back to working with the Aga Khan Academies.” 

In his visits to the AKA Maputo, he has played an important role in understanding how to improve upon the quality of mathematics education, looking at changes in curriculum as well as their implementation. He brings this same analytical eye to the Senior School where he is excited to work full time with his new colleagues in Maputo. Having worked with the teachers in Maputo on various occasions, Karim lauds the teachers at the Academy for their strong set of core values which resonate with him; enabling him to provide support and encourage teachers in their mission to nurture leaders.

“Students have huge potential to become leaders. And our teachers, in my opinion, are the only way we're going to achieve that. They are the key drivers of change. They’re going to influence minds. They're going to be the relationship holders with that student body. And so my role is very much to give the teachers what they need, provide that space and encouragement, be that support and give them resources to allow them to do that job to the best of their capability.”

Praising the Academy for its quick and comprehensive response to the challenges posed by COVID-19, he found the quality of the online programme comparable to some of the best on offer with regards to its points of contact, rich content and technical tools deployed therein. While he agrees that the unique in person contact experience cannot be replicated, the Academy strives to achieve similar outcomes.

“If you have good relationships with your students, you can get the most out of them and they can work with you to identify their barriers, to push through their challenges and go through their good and bad days knowing that they have that support as a constant anchor for them in the classroom, virtual or otherwise.”

But there have also been a few silver linings through this unprecedented time. Karim points out that online learning has allowed students to develop their own skills in terms of organisation, their independence as a learner as well as their self-reliance and grit which will be hugely important moving forward.

Highlighting another boon in the transition to online learning, he finds that it, “facilitates the opportunity to provide intervention and support that cannot always be offered in a physical classroom, and this can lead to a better understanding of students’ needs, and positive impact on their progress.” He adds that this can be applicable to mathematics, language learning and other areas whereby the faculty are equipped to individualise instruction, provide feedback in a more direct way to students and in essence, help them bridge some of their prior gaps and misconceptions in a more efficient way.

Feeling honoured and privileged to be serving in his new role, he said, “I recognise this opportunity to really support the vision of what we're trying to do at the Academy. For our students, it's one of the most unorthodox experiences they have had educationally and in their lives. And I'm heartened and proud of the way in which I've seen people demonstrate grit and perseverance to get through this. That's going to make them stronger people.” 

“And as we come back together as a physical school community in the future, I look forward to sharing those experiences, strengthening our Academy community, and appreciating the stimulation and freedom that comes with access to schooling. We have an incredibly exciting journey ahead.”