University of Central Asia: Part Three “The future leaders of Central Asia”— By Michael Igoe on Devax com
Students from the University of Central Asia’s inaugural class during the inauguration ceremony in Naryn, Kyrgyzstan. Photo by: Michael Igoe / Devex
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part three of a Devex series that examines the Aga Khan’s plan to create a new model for higher education in Central Asia, where the opportunity to achieve academic excellence is usually found somewhere else. Read part one here and part two here.
Naryn, Kyrgyzstan — In the 15th century, a grandson of the Central Asian conqueror Timur — or Tamerlane — sought to turn the city of Samarkand into an intellectual capital of the Persian Empire. His name was Ulugh Beg, and he ruled over the territory now referred to somewhat dismissively as “the Stans.” Ulugh Beg built one of the largest astronomical observatories in the world, with an 11-meter sextant, and he used it to calculate the timing of eclipses.
“Central Asia, a thousand years ago, led the world in trade and investment, in urban development, in cultural and intellectual achievement. This was the place that leading thinkers from around the known world would look to for leadership,” said Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, at the inauguration of the University of Central Asia in Naryn, Kyrgyzstan, in October.
The Aga Khan Development Network, a multi-disciplinary development organization founded and led by the Islamic royal billionaire, is trying to rebuild Central Asia’s educational and intellectual infrastructure. The University of Central Asia will operate in three countries — Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan — and draw students from across the region. Its aim is to create the next generation of Central Asian thinkers, scientists and leaders.
The university, however, has taken a big risk and faces an uphill battle. UCA’s graduates will have the language skills and educational training that would propel many young job seekers to higher-paying opportunities abroad. The Aga Khan’s vision is that these students find opportunities for leadership in their own region. Whether that vision comes to fruition will depend on whether UCA can tailor the education students receive to the specific practical challenges facing their own communities — and whether the university can establish a network of graduates and researchers who will become Central Asia’s job creators.
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University of Central Asia: Part Two “A classroom for the mountains” – — By Michael Igoe on Devax com
Prince Karim Aga Khan IV talks to reporters at the UCA inauguration in Naryn, Kyrgyzstan. Photo by: Michael Igoe/Devex
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part two of a three-part Devex series that examines the Aga Khan’s plan to create a new model for higher education in Central Asia, where the opportunity to achieve academic excellence is usually found somewhere else. Read part one here.
Inside Ian Canlas’ science classroom, students are discussing their grades on a recent homework assignment.
One of them asks Canlas why he deducted points from an answer that seemed generally correct.
“Because you did not have a complete idea,” Canlas says.
The students are grouped around open tables, seated in lime green cushioned swivel chairs. A few of them have laptops open. Most are casually dressed in t-shirts and hoodies, except for one who wears a black suit. The tone is informal, familiar. They call Canlas by his first name, Ian, which rhymes with lion.
But for the jagged foothills of Kyrgyzstan’s Tien Shan mountains surging outside the window and the students’ non-native facility with English, this could be any freshman classroom at a well-equipped Western university. For many members of this class, however, their first months at the University of Central Asia have marked a dramatic transition from the rote memorization favored by their Soviet legacy high schools to a curriculum that demands they think critically, in English — and offer a “complete idea.”
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University of Central Asia: Part one,”A world-class university town” —- By Michael Igoe on Devex com
Naryn, Kyrgyzstan, the location of a branch of the Aga Khan Development Network’s University of Central Asia. Photo by: Michael Igoe / Devex
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part one of a three-part Devex series that examines the Aga Khan’s plan to create a new model for higher education in Central Asia, where the opportunity to achieve academic excellence is usually found somewhere else.
The road to Naryn, a sleepy outpost 100 miles from the Chinese border at Torugart pass, winds southeast from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s leafy, cosmopolitan capital, over mountain passes and through eroding canyons.
This is one vein of the fabled Silk Road, the ancient trade network that stretched from China to the Mediterranean Sea. Today cargo trucks traverse the route. Arriving fully weighted from China’s western provinces to stock Kyrgyzstan’s crowded markets, most of them return empty, belching black exhaust along the way.
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