Author Archives: British Council India

About British Council India

The British Council is the United Kingdom's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide.

Challenges of talking science online

As we set the stage for the India debut of FameLab, world’s biggest science communication competition that brings together science enthusiasts onto a common platform, our guest blogger Subhra Priyadarshini talks about the challenges of talking science online.

FameLab International winner Padraic Flood presenting his research at the competition

FameLab International winner Padraic Flood presenting his research at the competition

For full-time scientists and researchers, retaining the quality and freshness of blogs is a challenge. So is it for full time science reporters. It is one more job to do in the day. Writing a meaningful science blog consistently demands as much time and energy as any of the other important tasks of the day. A periodic blog – say daily or weekly – also needs ample planning to remain useful and interesting. Many blogs, science or otherwise, begin with a bang, posting daily content and then petering down to weeklies and suddenly writing their own epitaph one fine day. The primary reasons: lack of interest, incentive, time or topics to write on.

For scientist bloggers, the thin ethical line to tread on is whether a blog or tweet on their own work takes the shape of blatant self-promotion or not. Many scientists I know blog anonymously just to avoid getting into trouble. The issue has been debated at many workshops and conferences globally and my contention is that there is nothing unethical to talk about one’s own work as long as the scientist is adhering to embargo or legal guidelines set out for his/her research by a laboratory or a journal. After all, scientists are human and would love their work to be appreciated, commented and debated about!

Indians are vocal and opinionated or, as Amartya Sen would have us believe, ‘argumentative’. So as soon as a blog piece or tweet is up in India, you can expect comments of various hues – some objective and rational, some angry, some offensive and some totally off the mark. Many blog pieces run the risk of being sabotaged into parallel discussions on absolutely unrelated issues. It is frustrating for a blog owner to press the ‘moderate’ button more often than the ‘approve comment’ button.

Another nightmare for serious bloggers is spam. ‘Fake passports and driving licenses’, ‘excellent quality branded shoes’ and ‘cheapest honeymoon packages’. Spammers and trolls are relentless. You might block them regularly, but there is a spammer lurking somewhere around to pop right in. A good spam-blocker is as much a pre-requisite to start using social media as an anti-virus used to be when we all started using laptop computers.

Science bloggers in India are a nascent tribe. Recently, a list compiling science bloggers from India on Twitter found a handful of serious ones, mostly scientists, some journalists, mostly outside India and just a few in the country: Since the space is by and large unexplored, the scope is enormous. Anyone with good science writing skills has a chance of standing up and getting noticed.

By Subhra Priyadarshini, British Chevening fellow 2006-07 and Editor, Nature India
This post was first published in Current Science, and has been edited to suit the blog format.

Want to build your skills in science communication and get a chance to represent India at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK? Apply for #FameLabIndia.

Share via email

Why are scientists taking to the blogosphere?

As we set the stage for the India debut of FameLab, world’s biggest science communication competition that brings together science enthusiasts onto a common platform, our guest blogger Subhra Priyadarshini shares her thoughts on scientists becoming science journalists.

FameLab: The world's biggest science communication competition

FameLab: The world’s biggest science communication competition

The number of science journalists using a blog to replace or supplement their print avatars has grown phenomenally. They might chose to be objective, sticking to the traditional mandate of journalism, or to be opinionated trying to justify a point of view.

However, an eye-catching trend is that of scientists blogging on science and scientific issues. The growth in this tribe of online busybees is instantly apparent at international conferences on science communication where journalist bloggers are a minority!

The reason more and more scientists are debuting in the blogosphere is apparent – it gives them and their research a lot more exposure, helps them find grants or new collaborators and enhances career opportunities. It is also an intimate social-networking tool where feedback is instant, candid and ever-flowing. A newspaper story is like a movie that you might adore or abhor, but the maker might not know how you felt about it instantly. A blog piece is like live theatre, where the adulation or booing by the audience is instant. Also, a blog is an online resource that continues to receive comments years after it is posted. By contrast, comments on online news stories taper out within a couple of days.

Blogging, however, cannot and must not replace science publishing or reporting on science. A blog is a personal viewpoint, very often informal and not bound by the classic writing structure that science or journalism schools teach us. It could be as free-flowing or structured as its author chooses it to be. The best science blogs, however, retain the classical structure – answering all questions the reader might have, explaining the scientific concept in layman’s language while adopting a conversational approach and looking at the implication of the research/study at hand.

They exceed the remit of a science article or news piece by becoming invaluable online resources, pooling in supplementary data on the topic by way of hyperlinks, pictures, diagrams and references. Most times, space constraint and format do not allow everything to be tucked into a science or news article. A blog is an ideal place to accommodate such interesting asides. In that sense, blogging is not strictly science publishing or journalism but supplements serious and consistent science or reportage.

Next up: Part III: Challenges of talking science online

By Subhra Priyadarshini, British Chevening fellow 2006-07 and Editor, Nature India
This post was first published in Current Science, and has been edited to suit our blog format.

Want to build your skills in science communication and get a chance to represent India at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK? Apply for #FameLabIndia.

Share via email

Is social media the place for science?

As we set the stage for the India debut of FameLab, world’s biggest science communication competition that brings together science enthusiasts onto a common platform, our guest blogger Subhra Priyadarshini shares her thoughts on talking science on social media.

FameLab: The world's biggest science communication competition

FameLab: The world’s biggest science communication competition

Years back, when I made the switch from reporting science for the mainstream media (newspapers, magazines, news agencies) to an online medium Nature India, I was inundated with questions from well-meaning peers. Must I renounce the glamour of the printed word to embrace the vastness and click-or-miss anonymity of the cyber world? Doesn’t a story in black and white with the morning cuppa have a more lasting impact than one on an android phone or tablet on the go? Concerned colleagues advised helpfully: online is the future, yes, but the romance of print will never fade. And one science journalist of repute gave me a clear disapproval: ‘You are going to blog and tweet too? That’s not journalism!’

Having swum in online waters and having passionately peeped into the crevices, I am happy to report I have survived. And blogged and tweeted my head-off too. Which is one of the points of this blog series – what has the journey been like, should scientists and science journalists blog and use social media to communicate science, and where is this enormous information explosion in science communication headed for?

Before I get into these mind-boggling details, I have to admit: If there were no science bloggers and tweeps, science would not be as glamorous and widespread as it has become in the last few years. Hats off to this informed, funny, adorable and quirky brood which has made life on the internet worth living.

So why blog? The evidence is clear: science sections in newspapers are shrinking. Television wakes up to science only during a nuclear disaster, a satellite lift-off or a Higgs boson. There are very few widely read science magazines simply because they do not make great commerce. Science coverage in mainstream Indian media, like many other issues of merit, has traditionally been minimal, primarily because of advertorial pressures and the space crunch.

The obvious SOS route: go online. Report, comment, give opinion, analyse or put all that together and just blog. Or if you are the cryptic type: use the 140-character route to tweetdom.

Next up: Part II: Why are scientists taking to the blogosphere?

By Subhra Priyadarshini, British Chevening fellow 2006-07 and Editor, Nature India
This post was first published in Current Science, and has been edited to suit the blog format.

Want to build your skills in science communication and get a chance to represent India at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK? Apply for #FameLabIndia.

Share via email

#MeetTheTeacher – Premila Lowe

For your Monday of #MeetTheTeacher, Priyanka Chandan, Marketing Manager, Chennai caught up with the oldest, yet the youngest Teacher of English at our Chennai English language centre.

Premila Lowe, Teacher of English at British Council, Chennai

Premila Lowe

Here are five questions with Premila to get to know her better!

Priyanka Chandan (PC): Let’s start with an anecdote! Can you tell us an interesting anecdote that you recall from your days as a student?

Premila Lowe (PL): Something that I would always remember was the way I learnt to speak  English in school. It was long, long ago, when English was the sole medium of instruction and communication in Chennai schools. It was compulsory for us to speak in English on the campus. We actually had teachers going around the premises during breaks to ensure that we spoke only in English. God forbid if we didn’t, as we got knocked on our knuckles with their rulers. As they said, “Practice makes perfect” – it sure did!

PC: Why did you become a Teacher of English?

PL: I’ve always loved teaching and have been a teacher / trainer in all the professions I have been in. Added to that, a passion for teaching English overtook the challenge of being part of the Corporate World. Hence, the move to teaching English.

PC: What are students at the British Council like?

PL: Students at British Council are a lovely, mixed bunch – some eager to learn, some forced to be there, some just to be there with their peers. All of them ultimately benefit from the courses here, simply because of the way we teachers interact with them, encourage and support them. We become their best friends by the end of the course.

PC: We have a lot of students asking us how they can improve their speaking skills. What is your advice to them?

PL: One of many would be to speak to people in  English, irrespective of errors in grammar and vocabulary. This will help them gain confidence, as a lot of students don’t speak because they are afraid of being laughed at. Once they have a conversation with someone else, they should ask the other person to correct any errors they find.

PC: Have you learnt a new word recently? Tell us about it.

PL: Oh yes! I came across quite a few new words that were added to the dictionary to celebrate the author Roald Dahl’s 100th birth anniversary. One of them is “Dahlesque” which means something that resembles or is characteristic of Dahl’s works.

PC: If you got a chance to go #BacktoSchool as a student, what is the one thing that you would like to learn and unlearn?

PL: If I had a chance to go back to school as a student, one thing that I would like to learn is to pursue my interest in theatre, as opportunities those days were few. There is nothing that I would like to unlearn, as life in school and the learning gained were the greatest experiences ever.

By Priyanka Chandan

Share via email

Happy teachers’ day!

Teachers are some of the most impactful people in our lives. Some say, and I agree, that teachers hold the future in their hands!

Today we celebrate teachers; remember our favourites and even the ones we always got in trouble with. Today is Teachers’ day!


Teachers are at the front of the transformational work we do in teaching English and teacher training; I am in constant admiration of their work.

Here are excerpts from an interview with two teachers I have worked very closely with this past year.

Neenaz Ichaporia is an Academic Manager with the British Council. She started her journey with the British Council as a Teacher of English with the English Language Centres and now manages the teaching team for myEnglish, our innovative blended learning course.

Avinash Govindarajan is Teacher of English and has taught at the English Language Centres and now teaches myEnglish.

Why did you become a Teacher of English?

Neenaz Ichaporia (NI): This may sound like a cliché, but I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, as long as I can remember. I tried out other things but in my heart I knew teaching was what I wanted to do. So one day, I took some leave from my job and tried out the CELTA course. I loved it… and the rest is history.

Avinash Govindarajan (AG): I chose to teach English because I love the language and the possibilities it holds. It helps in expressing yourself and also builds better relationships if used well. I like sharing this interest with other learners and celebrate them when we’re rewarded with progress.

What is the one thing you like the most about your job?

NI: I love the feeling of satisfaction when students write to you saying that what they learned in class has been helpful to them in some way in their lives. For instance, a student from one of my speaking skills classes wrote to me saying how thrilled he was because he felt much more confident dealing with an interview and group discussion he had after the course. He also got extra credits for showing them the British Council certificate from his course and he was offered the job! This made me really happy, knowing that I helped change someone’s life for the better, even if it was in a small way.

AG: Things I like most about doing my job are the language feedback sessions with the learners in my class. Dealing with questions about English is immensely challenging and extremely rewarding (provided you know the answer!).

What are students at the British Council like?

NI: It’s been a wonderful experience teaching learners from different nationalities and cultural backgrounds. I’ve taught learners from India, Burkina Faso, France, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, South Korea, Spain – the list is endless! I’ve taught adults both younger and older than I am. I’ve taught children as young as eight years old and I’ve taught teenagers as well. The one common thread between all these learners is their desire to learn English because they feel it will help them in some way or the other.

AG: They’re probably the most motivated learners I’ve encountered in my life. They are positive, open to feedback, and realistic in their expectations. There have been numerous occasions where I’ve listened to or read our learners’ work and have had a broad smile on my face. Pride in others’ achievements is a wonderful feeling to experience.

If there was one study tip that you could give to your students, what would it be?

NI: Stay positive and develop some independent learning skills. Independent learners try to find opportunities for study outside the classroom. They plan their time well and take every opportunity they get to speak the language they are trying to learn. Most importantly, they do some research to find answers to their language questions themselves, rather than always relying on someone else for support. For instance, an independent learner may use the British Council’s weekly Facebook Language Clinic to ask questions or may check the LearnEnglish website for answers.

AG: Experiment and seek feedback! One shouldn’t be afraid to try new things out while learning English. The more you try, the easier it is to recall the next time. Feedback is an essential part of this; so make sure you get feedback from a trusted source (like a teacher or a friend), otherwise you always have the internet!

Complete the sentence, “If I wasn’t a teacher, I’d be…”

NI: …a journalist (I’ve already done that) or a lawyer.

AG: …picking at a guitar string somewhere, trying to make some music.

What were your teachers like? Tell us about your favourite teacher on our English Facebook page by using the hashtag #TeachersDay.

Submitted by Shivangi Gupta
Share via email

British Council launches ELIPS 2 with Government of Maharashtra and Tata Trust


In March 2016 British Council signed a tri partite contract with the Government of Maharashtra and Tata Trust to launch an innovative teacher training project, English Language Initiative for Primary Schools – 2 (ELIPS 2) for primary school teachers in Maharashtra, India. ELIPS 2 represents a transition from more traditional model of teacher training to a more sustainable internally-supported approach which promotes holistic professional development through local communities of practice.

ELIPS2 will focus on primary teachers in government schools in Maharashtra and will take place over three years. In the first year, the project will cover nine districts in Maharashtra and in the second year the project will be scaled up to include the rest of the state. Following discussions with the government, it was agreed that the project would include initiatives for capacity building of the State Institute of English (SIE), establishment of Teacher Activity Groups (TAGs) at cluster level for the nine districts and exploring the potential of online training programmes and social networking applications including WhatsApp to support teacher training and mentoring.

Building the capacity of the SIE through the development of a core team of English experts is central to this intervention and its sustainability. In addition, a teacher training and development model focussing on building the capacity of the state to provide appropriate Continuing Professional Development (CPD) opportunities for teachers will be developed.  This will be achieved through a combination of face-to-face training, online learning through e-moderated and self-access courses, Teacher Activity Groups (TAGs) at the cluster level, the creation of online communities through popular social networking platforms and a teacher mentoring programme. All of these elements of the project aim to put the teacher at the centre of his/her own development.

Master Trainers, and later selected Teacher Facilitators, will be supported with British Council resources to facilitate TAGs. Existing Kendra Pramukhs (KPs) will be responsible for administrative aspects of these groups. The project will therefore build the state’s institutional capacity to support and implement large-scale, long-term in-service teacher training programmes which do not rely solely on cascade training as the medium of delivery.

Share via email

To be or not to be creative

The winning entry of the Shakespeare in India drawing competition in the 8-10 year old category

The winning entry of the drawing competition for children in the 8-10 year old category

Last week, curtains came down on the Summer School 2016 with Shakespeare at British Council Kolkata. Children dressed as Titania, Ophelia, Shylock, Bassanio, Puck and a host of other characters regaled their parents with lines from Shakespeare’s famous plays. For three weeks, classes hummed with ‘To thine own self be true’ and ‘Romeo Romeo, where art thou Romeo!’ as children experimented with the bard’s sonnets, comedies and tragedies. Children were so eager to show what they had learnt and prepared for, that one little Hamlet forgot to die! Students were both happy and sad. One child summed up her feelings with “Heavy lightness”, an oxymoron she learnt on the course. Another student commented, “Why can’t classes at school be like British Council classes?” Parents said how much the children loved the experience. One mother said that her child had hardly ever spoken English before but has now been the narrator for a Shakespeare play. Prizes were awarded for costumes and for competitions, including art and favourite words, both real and invented: scrumplicious – a mixture of delicious and scrumptious, melancholy – described as a tricky word describing both sadness and happiness, synopsis, gargantuan, solicitious, and  soliloquy – a word that a 12 year old student felt described him.

When asked to write about ‘My favourite actor’ one child wrote “My little brother is an awesome actor because whenever we have a fight and my parents rush in to stop us, he acts like he is the one who is hurt more!” Given below are the two winning entries:

A Day in the Life of Me
by Utsa Mohana Mukherjee, (13-15 years category)

I tap my foot restlessly on the polished airport floor, looking at the clock hanging above the boarding gate. Around me, lost souls rush about, trying to reach their gates on time while I wait, because I am too early. The nervousness, lurking in the pit of my stomach makes me feel nauseous as I think of the people I will have to face when I reach my destination. The place I ran away from years ago with a vow to be a better man. I have learnt lots of things, and the time has come for me to return. I am going home. Fear, that my parents won’t be forgiving, exists within me, but hope dwells too, and I hope that their love for me is enough. I hope this day in my life won’t end with disappointment but rather with the happiness of a long overdue, familiar reunion.

The Magic of Shakespeare
by Risha Sharma, (13-15 years category)

Sculptor of literary wonders
He who was a wise fool
Taught us lessons by depicting blunders
Kindled warmth in millions of hearts.
Ecstasy, violence, tragic plunders
Stories that over our hearts rule
Patient teachings that strike like thunder
Ever loyal heroes and their loving sweethearts
Admired by people everywhere
Respected by moral good
Enthralling millions, the magic of Shakespeare is beyond compare!


Share via email

Education UK Alumni Awards 2016 winners meet the Royal Couple

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meeting the winners of EdUk Alumni Awards 2016 in Delhi

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meeting the winners of EdUk Alumni Awards 2016 in Delhi

The British Council had recently organised the Education UK Alumni Awards 2016 on March 19 in New Delhi to honour outstanding success in Entrepreneurship, Professional Achievement, and Social Impact by Indians who have graduated from UK higher education institutions.

The winners were Ankit Mehrotra for the Entrepreneurial Category who graduated from University of Essex and founded Dineout, a premier table reservation service in India; Nishad Chaughule for the Professional Achievement category who had studied at Leeds Beckett University and had made a name for himself as a filmmaker and student Academy award winner; the Social Impact award was won by Ria Sharma, an alumnus of Leeds College of Art for her initiative Make Love Not Scars, an organisation that has helped over 60 survivors of acid attacks medically, legally and financially.

The three winners were invited for the Queen’s Birthday Party celebrations that were held at the British High Commissioner’s residence. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton were the guests of honour for the evening. The winners individually got the opportunity to interact with the Royal Couple.

Ankit Mehrotra, winner of the Entrepreneurial Award, shared his views on meeting the couple; he said “My first impression was “What a beautiful couple”. I was introduced to them as the winner of the Education UK Award for Entrepreneurship. They congratulated me for winning the award and highlighted how important entrepreneurs were for creation of new jobs in any economy. Both of them were very keen to know more about my venture. As I started explaining more to them, the Duke interrupted me and asked me if my business was similar to Opentable in the UK. As I said yes, he immediately mentioned that he exactly knew what Dineout was all about and what a great idea it was as he and The Duchess always had problems reserving tables in London and used similar services. We also spoke about my time in the UK and when I mentioned that I had lived in London for 10 years, and worked as an Investment Banker and then returned back to India to start Dineout, he mentioned that the next decade of business growth will be fuelled by entrepreneurs such as myself creating value for the society. They congratulated me once again, wished me for my continued success and then proceeded towards the stage.”

Writing about her experience, Ria Sharma, winner of the Social Impact Award said “I was ecstatic when I first received an invitation to the queen’s 90th birthday party to be held in Delhi and I was completely overwhelmed when I received a second email saying I would personally get to meet the Royal Couple. The experience in itself was a roller coaster of emotions, ranging from very happy to beyond elated. I had the opportunity to talk to Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cambridge about the issue of acid attacks. We spoke about numbers, how frequently acid attacks happen and also about why they happen. The high number of cases stunned the Duchess, even though she had heard that acid attacks were very frequent in India. In the end she congratulated me, shook my hand and made her way towards the stage for the cake cutting. All in all, it was an experience I will never forget, I actually got to represent my survivors in front of the royal couple and it was an absolute honour.”

Nishad Chaughule, winner of the Professional Achievement Award said “I am extremely grateful for the opportunity given to me by the British Council to meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It was an extremely surreal experience to meet the future King and Queen of England. I was delighted to be invited to such an event and feel that I am extremely lucky to be one of the few people to actually interact with their Royal Highnesses. They asked me about my work, and they both seemed genuinely interested in the kind of films I am working on or involved with which in itself was a great validation for me to continue doing what I am doing.

Share via email

International Women’s day: Does it make a real difference to women’s lives?

We have been celebrating International Women’s Day for more than a century. Back in 1909 it was all about fighting for the rights for working women. It has over the years broadened to include all women.

Of course, as a woman, it feels good to have a day dedicated to us, but is it enough? In an ideal world, surely, we wouldn’t need to have this one day set aside every year? Women’s rights and their contribution to society would be understood and appreciated every day of the year.

The reality is that for almost half the population of the world every day is a constant struggle. In many countries women still don’t have even basic rights. They don’t have the right to vote or to education. At an even more basic level, they are not safe in the streets, or even at home. Their own bodies are not their own. Even in the most developed countries the battle for equal wages and equal rights in the workplace goes on.

In a world like this, simply setting aside a day to “celebrate” women seems like tokenism to me. We have to create a future where we don’t need women’s day anymore because we are all equally empowered.

Till then, a woman can dream….

What do you think?

Post by - Mahananda Bohidar

Share via email

India and the UK are ideal partners for employment skills and English language collaboration

blog pic

Anil Subramanian was in London the week of 19 January as part of a high-level delegation from India that took part in the second UK-India English Partnerships Forum and study tour to several UK institutions. He shares his thoughts and take-aways from the week.

India is going through interesting times. It has the world’s largest young population and yet employers are constantly searching for the ‘right talent’. India is expected to add over 100 million young adults ready and waiting for work in the next 15 years. Further, due to technology infusion, most of the job requirement has changed vastly in favour of skilled personnel. With a view to enable India to utilize its resources optimally, the Government of India has launched five important initiatives, all of equal importance:

  1. Clean India
  2. Digital India
  3. Make in India
  4. Housing for all
  5. Skill India

Sustained success of the first four initiatives hinges significantly on the availability of quality manpower. The answer therefore lies in skilling the youth in India. As is well known, there is a large rural population waiting for skills training for either increasing agricultural productivity or to enable them to join as productive workforce in the manufacturing and service sectors. The latter not only requires quality technical skilling but also English language skills. The government’s DDU-GKY skill development programme recognizes this and has made English skill a mandatory part of its training.

Against this backdrop, the focus of UK-India English Partnerships Forum in London on 20 January this year was on English Skills for Employability, especially as part of skill training outside formal education. The Indian delegation consisted of State Government Ministers, Government officials representing the Centre and States, skills agencies, assessment bodies and Sector Skills Councils from India. The Indian delegation got an opportunity to interact and share views with their counterparts in the UK. Several key discussions revolved around identification of academic, strategic and commercial opportunities in English skills in vocational training.

The Forum also paved the way for scoping possibilities of creating opportunities for using UK’s experience in enhancing the quality of skills training in India. One of the key areas for partnerships includes assessment and certification for employable skills which may require international certification. The possibility of Training Partners from the UK getting involved in skills development in India for the global market came as an idea whose time has come and the relationships the Indian delegation established in the UK now need to be nurtured diligently.

UK-India English Partnerships Forum could not have come at a better time.

Anil Subramanian is Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Rural Development. He currently handles subjects related to policy, planning and operations in implementation of DDU-GKY, a placement -linked skills development programme for rural youth in India.

Mr Subramanian has a background in the humanities. He has been working with Government of India for the past 18 years. During this tenure he has also handled portfolios in public service selection, environment and forest regulations, information broadcasting policy and mining regulations.

To find out more about the DDU-GKY programme click here

Share via email