Monthly Archives: February 2017

From Learning English to Building Confidence – Benazir’s Learning Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

Benazir Roshni Imroz

 

Hi, I am Benazir Roshini Imroz, an undergraduate student in English Honours (3rd year), from A.J.C Bose College under Calcutta University. I want to become an English teacher or professor because I love teaching. After giving my first-year final exams, I thought about learning English. Though I wanted to become an English teacher, I also wanted to ensure that I made no mistakes in English. Hence, I got in touch with British Council.

Apart from learning the English language, I also learned manners, politeness, and discipline from two of my English teachers – Neha Bulsare and Maya Waldman during my CELTA classes. They might not know that I was also learning much more than just English from them, as it seems to come naturally from their side, but all these opportunities which I got, were only because of my teachers and the British Council.

I had always struggled with “tenses”. That too was cleared up during my classes and nowadays neither do I hesitate in writing any applications nor I hesitate while speaking. My advice to friends and learners is to play with words and sentences, as this will make their learning interesting and help to remember things for a long time as well as encourage you to learn more.

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Investing in innovation: UK-India Education Week

With the recent budget announcements in India and the huge expectations from the Finance Minister with regards to the education sector; (the 2017 budget allocation to education was upped by 10 per cent from the previous year, now standing at INR 79,000 crores / INR 790 billion),  it seemed like the perfect time to press the pause button in my hitting-the-road-running life, to take a deep breath, reflect and perhaps (Un)learn! The opportunity to do just this came in the form of an invitation to participate in an exciting outing as a delegate at the UK-India Education Week, organised by the British Council offices in India and the UK.

Janaka Pushpanathan at the Bett Show

At the Bett Show

During this time, I along with other delegates was exposed to current and future technological trends in school education practice; the continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers using advanced technological tools; a library of experience for diversity and inclusion (facilitated by a Microsoft partnership); digital democracy and the overwhelmingly huge Bett show, to name a few. The common denominator underpinning all of these remarkable developments in education is the snowballing of computing technology, coupled with a strong desire to create disruptive innovation.

Two experiences amidst many that stood out for me personally: the visit to Christopher Hatton primary school located in central London and the meeting with the team at NESTA. I could totally relate to the background and setting of the primary school, with many children from disadvantaged communities (opting for the free school meals scheme), and almost 26 different languages being spoken in the school. The dedication of the head teacher Gwen Lee and her team of very driven staff touched me and it was no surprise that the school recently received an ‘outstanding’ rating from the English government inspectorate: Ofsted. It was interesting to note that many of the challenges that the schools’ sector faces in the UK were similar in nature to what we are facing in India and in Tamil Nadu, where I am from. For example, at Christopher Hatton school, more than two thirds of the children were learning English as an additional language (which is the given, in our classrooms in India). The school has also invested deeply into teacher development – the recruit, train and retain policy that Gwen follows in the school uses technology very innovatively to strengthen teachers and make them more self-aware. This includes the use of the Iris Connect system.

At the end of the week, I had made new connections, not just with people in the UK, but also with fellow delegates from back home. Along with our full schedule of meetings and events, we also had time to eat hot desi khana (Indian food) and hip fusion cuisine (thanks to some seriously awesome hospitality from the British Council), hang out at an uber-cool Sherlock Holmes themed pub and just simply walk the streets of London, soaking in the beauty and busy-ness of it all. Even the classic London weather taught me something significant: change is constant, but it is magical too.

Back home now I’m looking forward to following up on my conversations, exploring collaborative possibilities and continuing the learning opportunities with potential partners.

Post and images by Janaka Pushpanathan, Founder, UnLearn.

Tower Bridge, London at 3.55 PM

Tower Bridge, London at 3.55 PM

Tower Bridge, London at 3.57 PM

Tower Bridge, London at 3.57 PM

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Valentine’s Day – the Romeo and Juliet Way

Mix the Play with Tushar Pandey and Kriti Pant

Valentine’s Day, a recent phenomenon in India, has caught the fancy of people especially the youth. February 14 is a day when people express their love to their significant others (and also to their friends, teachers, siblings and parents). Popular Valentine’s Day symbols include flowers, cupid, arrows, love birds, hearts and the colours pink and red.  Restaurants, cinemas, malls and other popular hangout places are packed as couples celebrate the day in togetherness.

Legendary romantic couples down the ages have included Laila-Majnu, Shahjahan- Mumtaz Mahal,  Antony-Cleopatra,  Shirin-Farhad. And of course Romeo and Juliet –  the lead characters from Shakespeare’s tragedy about two young star-crossed lovers. Adapted numerous times for stage, film, musicals and opera it is perhaps the most-filmed play of all time. The most celebrated film versions have been George Cukor‘s multi-Oscar-nominated 1936 productionFranco Zeffirelli‘s 1968 version, and Baz Luhrmann‘s 1996 MTV-inspired Romeo + Juliet. The latter two were both, in their time, the highest-grossing Shakespeare films ever.

Romeo and Juliet have become emblems of young lovers and doomed love. Fatefully referred to as “star-cross’d” the stars seem to have predetermined the lovers’ future.  And Indians are the greatest believers in destiny and fate. More than a tragedy, people regard the plot as an emotional melodrama.  So how could Hindi cinema stay far behind from a storyline which offers so many exciting ingredients ?  Still talked about Bollywood adaptations have been Ek Duuje Ke Liye (a cross-cultural romance between a Tamil boy and a Goan girl),  Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak  (which introduced  mega star Aamir Khan),  Ishaqzaade (which revolved around  honour killings).   More recently Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s opulent  “Goliyon Ki Rasleela – Ram Leela” with current heart throbs Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh was a blockbuster hit.

The timeless story has also been interpreted in modern times using social media inventions. The Royal Shakespeare Company presented a version entitled Such Tweet Sorrow, as an improvised, real-time series of tweets on Twitter and YouTube pictures and video. In the age of  mobile  phones, the story would perhaps have had a modern twist –  Romeo and Juliet would have had location-aware apps telling them of their whereabouts, and thus “the course of true love would have been… more connected” .

Mix the Play with Kalki Koechlin and Adil Hussain

The British Council invites you connect with this fabulous tale of love via an exciting online app called Mix the Play.  You can control the casting, interpretation, setting and music and create your own version of the famous balcony scene.  The platform is intuitive and it is easy to share your creations on social media. Without any prior knowledge of directing or Shakespearean text, you can create your own scene and experience what it feels like to “direct” a scene from a Shakespeare classic. You never know when you may get an opportunity to direct your own play or film in the future. Here’s your training ground. And you can’t go wrong!

Reimagined by well- known theatre director Roysten Abel the classic balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet has been shot in different locations – a modern day café, on a wooden staircase in a theatre, in   a locked room in an old ancestral home. By making a choice of actors, storylines, sets, costumes and music there are 24 ways in which you can “mix” this scene, every permutation and combination leading to an exciting new version.  The cast includes well-known film and theatre actors Adil Hussain, Kalki Koechlin,  Tushar Pandey and Kriti Pant.

You can then upload the scene “directed” by you on Facebook or Twitter and mark it to #ShakespeareLives and #MixThePlay. And  of course you can tag your friends. Come on what are you waiting for ? This could be the most fun way you send your love online to your Valentine!

Written by Vivek Mansukhani

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Authors from Bloody Scotland at the 2017 Kolkata Lit Festival

Bloody Scotland is an annual Crime Writers festival held in Stirling, Scotland, and sees participation from some well-known crime fiction authors from Scotland and India. Earlier in February, three Scottish authors participated in a series of sessions with Indian crime fiction authors to explore themes around crime writing:

Lin Anderson shares her experience of participating in the Kolkata Literature festival in this Blog post here  

My favourite memory was of a boy of about ten who had chosen his book from a selection of classics. Clutching it to his chest like a prize possession he was approaching the pay desk with a broad smile on his face.

Lin Anderson

Lin Anderson

Lin Anderson is best known as the author of a series of crime thriller novels and for her part in founding the annual ‘Bloody Scotland’ crime writing festival. Lin’s novel Paths of the Dead was shortlisted for the 2015 Scottish Crime Book of the Year award. Her novels have been published in translation in a number of countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and Russia. Lin is also an award-winning scriptwriter, with her work broadcast internationally on radio and TV.

 

 

 

Doug Johnstone also writes about his time in Kolkata, dodging the traffic, meeting authors from India and gorging on masala omelettes in his blog here

Turns out we had a lot in common with our Kolkatan counterparts, and we learnt a lot about the crime scene there, as well as spreading the word about our own writing. Ideally, we ‘d love to have some Indian writers come over to Scotland in the future, and I hope we can make that happen.

Doug Johnstone. Picture: Chris Scott

Doug Johnstone. Picture: Chris Scott

Doug Johnstone is a writer, musician and journalist based in Edinburgh, Scotland. His eighth novel, Crash Land, was published by Faber & Faber in November 2016. His previous book, The Jump, was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Novel. Doug has had short stories appear in various publications and anthologies.

 

 

 

 

Find out more about the Bloody Scotland Festival 

 

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How is technology being used in schools in India?

95805Technology is often seen as a solution to improving learning and teaching, but what exactly does this look like in Indian schools? Which types of technology are being used? Does technology actually enhance learning in this context, and if so – how? Can technology be successfully used in government and low-income private schools in rural India?

To answer these questions, British Council India and Central Square Foundation recently launched a joint publication Teaching and technology: case studies from India edited by Dr Gary Motteram from the University of Manchester, UK. Twenty two case studies were selected from over 430 submissions following an open call. The selected stories highlight the innovative ways in which teachers, schools and organisations are using technology to improve student learning and teacher development across the length and breadth of India.

The collected data highlights a number of interesting features.

  • Technology is frequently used to show their learners videos or images are frequently used to demonstrate concepts more clearly. This is particularly prevalent in science classes, but also used in social sciences and English lessons.
  • Many teachers give their students tasks and projects in which they have to research topics using the internet and then co-create presentations of their findings. Such tasks can also benefit learner autonomy, as learners are required to find things out for themselves rather than rely on the teacher and textbooks. This also helps to develop digital literacy and internet navigation skills.
  • There are several examples of flipped classroom approaches, with teachers asking learners to watch videos or read articles before coming to class, so that class time can be used for going into more depth and clarifying any misunderstandings.
  • A number of organisations aim to increase the quality of education available to disadvantaged learners by using tablets, videoconferencing, projectors and other technology to support their learning.
  • Many teachers mention how they use technology for their own professional development, such as participating in social media communities of practice, following massive open online courses (MOOCs) and using the internet to deepen their own subject knowledge.

This publication studies reveal that there are a lot of enthusiastic teachers and organisations using technology to enhance learning, and aims to inspire further action from others working in similar contexts. We strongly encourage you to try out some of the ideas from the case studies in your own schools, building on the knowledge and experience gained by these individuals.

You can download or view the publication here, along with a research report published in 2016 on how teachers in South Asia use technology for their professional development. We will also be doing some further activity around the themes from the current publication and individual case studies in coming weeks, via webinars and our social media channels.

Post by Rustom Mody, Senior Academic Manager – English Partnerships, North India.

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