Aga Khan Academy Mombasa offers International Baccalaureate IB in Two Languages

The academy has introduced first ever Swahili – English version of the Primary Years Program (PYP) for the International Baccalaureate (IB). IB is world most prestigious university entrance qualification. Developing and pioneering a Kenyan-relevant version of the program at a time when all other IB schools are using an English language version in the country.

The same version is used in Maputo where it is pioneering a dual language English and Portuguese PYP as well as the Academy in Hyderabad pioneers an English and Hindi PYP.

Dual language program works by using two languages for teaching. “The school has adopted the 50-50 model of dual language education, which means that half of the instruction is done in Swahili and half of the instruction is done in English. “One day the children learn the curriculum in English and the next day they continue their studies in Swahili,” said Esther

Research by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition shows that learning in two languages has additionally been proven to help development of children’s intelligence and thinking. Bilingual children are able to solve problems that contain conflicting or misleading cues at an earlier age more easily than monolingual children.

The program has been developed in collaboration with the International Baccalaureate Organization. This has been driven by the Academy’s vision of offering world class education that spans both global and local expertise. The Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa is one of a global network of academies dedicated to the development of leaders. It began developing the new PYP program in 2009. Today it has the curricula approved and implemented for Years 1 – 4.

As children progress through the school, they proceed into the IB Middle Years program and will have the opportunity to complete a bilingual IB Diploma in English and Swahili.


“When His Highness started the Aga Khan Academy network of schools, he had the vision of educating future leaders, who would later be able to drive positive development in their societies and this would only be possible if the children had a powerful grasp of their local language, which in this case is Swahili,” said Esther Kariuki, a teacher of the dual language program.

The dual language program extends beyond advanced cognitive abilities to include cultural and social gains. The 2013 UNDP Human Development Report states that Swahili is the most widely spoken language in Africa. With 150m speakers, and is an official national language in four countries. International Baccalaureate (IB) encompasses Swahili culture.  Such a large body of Swahili speakers gives future entrepreneurs at the Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa a further advantage in doing business and in playing leadership roles on the continent.

Teachers additionally deploy new teaching methods to cater different capabilities in Swahili.
“One of them is differentiated instruction, where a teacher plans a lesson according to the children’s different proficiency levels in Swahili. Students in a class will be grouped according to their level of understanding in Swahili then taught using learning activities fit for their proficiency,” said Esther.

Dramatization is another method; a teacher acts out whatever might not be understood by the students. “For instance, when reading out a Swahili comprehension, the teacher can ask the students who have understood to role play it out to those who have not,” she said. Intensive training took three days, and then followed by continuous in-house training at the academy’s Teacher Professional Development Centre. This is also teaches educators from across the public schooling sector.
It is teachers’ responsibility to use all available methods to make sure learners understand without simply giving a translation. It involves the use of body language as this helps to build deeper learning of the language.

Teachers at Aga Khan Academy Mombasa make use of peer teaching. “This is known as co-operative learning, where students are divided into small groups. These groups are led by those who better understand the concepts so they help all understand, Says Esther. Using this methods enable all students to build a more complex understanding of the topic being covered.
Subjects like mathematics and sciences, teachers use other teaching aids.

“Here, teaching aids are used to help students understand well the subject covered. For example a model of the human body is used to explain the digestive system.

A big protractor helps in teaching how to draw angles. Though children still develop in understanding of Swahili, still they can learn from what they are seeing” says Esther.

.A lot of preparation was done before the launch of the program.
“First the teachers had to be trained in the dual language program and we also had to look for any type of resources, such as textbooks, that would help us in delivering the curriculum in Swahili,” said Esther.

(AKA, Mombasa) is the first of a network of 18 planned academies to be established across Africa, South and Central Asia, and the Middle East to provide a world-class education to exceptional students who possess strong leadership potential.
Pluralism is a core value of the educational program at the Academy. The student body of the Academy reflects the full diversity of East Africa. That is learners from all socio-economic backgrounds. Admission to the Academy is based on merits.

Financial aid is available to ensure access for students with proven need.
Academy is an International Baccalaureate World School offering an IB curriculum. It is locally rooted and globally relevant. AKA graduates have earned places and scholarships at the world’s top universities. The Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa is part of a network of schools, called Aga Khan Academies and it offers an education with an emphasis on the humanities  

Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa students displaying some of the awards they won at a recent Model United Nations international conference

Facebook Comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: