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.

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

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

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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

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Live Webcast: Teacher Educator Conference 2015 (Main Hall)

Follow the sessions and tweet using #TEC15

Day 1: Friday 27 February

09.30 – 10.00 Inauguration by by His Excellency Shri E.S.L. Narasimhan, the Governor of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana; Sunaina Singh, Vice-Chancellor English and Foreign Languages University(EFL-U), Hyderabad; S Mohanraj, Dean, School of English Language Education, English and Foreign Languages University (EFL-U); Chris Brandwood, Director English – South Asia, British Council; Andrew McAllister British Deputy High Commissioner, Hyderabad; George Pickering, Trustee, International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL)Chair: Michael Connolly, Assistant Director, English Partnerships, British Council India
10.00 – 11.15 Keynote address: The ingredients of quality in teacher education, RodBolitho
11.45 – 12.15 Rethinking teacher motivation for professional development,Amol Padwad
12.30 – 13.00 Streaming of students: how to promote social justice and inclusivity,Jayagowri Shivakumar
14.00 – 15.00 Evaluation in teacher education programmes: a critical appraisal,Geetha Durairajan (Cambridge University Press)
15.45 – 16.40 Moving from quantity to quality – implications for teacher educationPanel: Colin Bangay (DfiD), Maya Menon (The Teacher Foundation),Lina Mukhopadhyay (EFLU) and Amol Padwad (AINET)Chair: Rittika Chanda Parruck (British Council)
16.40 – 16.50 Continuing Professional Development Framework: going global
17.00 – 18.00 Blissfully developing teacher education materials, Huma Riaz andRosie Tanner
18.15 – 19.15 Moving away from traditional methodologies in language education – thebaby has been thrown out with the bath waterChair: Chris Brandwood 

Day 2: Saturday 28 February

09.00 – 10.00 Plenary:Learning to read in India: challenges and opportunities for enhancingquality in teacher education, Rukmini Banerji
10.15 – 11.15 Frameworks – they might look dull but actually they’re really useful for all sorts of things, John Shackleton and Tim Phillips
12.00 – 13.00 Are we supporting teachers to address student diversity in the classroom? Dilemmas and solutions, Renu Singh
14.00 – 15.00 Video cameras in English language teaching, Jamie Keddie
15.30 – 16.30 Evaluating the quality of teacher education programmes – whatworks?Panel: David Hayes (Brock University, Canada), Rama Mathew (DelhiUniversity), John Simpson (British Council), Renu Singh (Young LivesIndia),Chair: Sara Pierson (British Council)

Day 3: Sunday 1 March

09.00 – 10.00 Plenary: A fine balance: English language teacher education in21st-century India, Alison Barrett
10.15 – 11.15 Towards understanding teacher motivation for professional development, Krishna K Dixit 
12.00 – 13.00 Reviewing and improving quality in large-scale teacher education anddevelopment programmes, Sara Pierson and Duncan Wilson 
14.00 – 14.30 Curriculum change and innovation: insiders’ perspectives, RavinarayanChakrakodi
14.45 – 15.45 Plenary: Teacher education and quality assurance, Paul Gunashekar
15.45 – 16.15 Main Hall Valedictory

Download the Teacher Educator Conference 2014 paper publication – Innovation in English Language Teacher Education:




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Live webcast: Teacher Educator Conference 2015, G01/02

Follow the sessions and tweet using #TEC15

Day 1: Friday 27 February

11.45 – 12.45 Learning to test or testing to learn? Washback and the learner,Stephen Carey (IELTS)
14.00 – 15.00 Paradigms of enrichment in language and teacher education,Elka Todeva (Regional English Language Office – U.S. Embassy)
17.00 – 18.00 Collins English language quiz

Day 2: Saturday 28 February

10.15 – 11.15 Assessing young learners: challenges and possible solutions,Gwendydd Caudwell (Aptis)
12.00 – 13.00 How to help teachers find, create, recycle and adapt good-qualityteaching materials, Katherine Bilsborough 
14.00 – 15.00 The Survey of ELT Research in India: how can it help you?Paul Gunashekar, Lina Mukhopadhyay and Richard Smith 
16.45 – 17.45 Dictionaries and corpus workshop, Elaine Higgleton

Day 3: Sunday 1 March

10.15 – 11.15 Why is English so difficult? Empowering teachers through a betterunderstanding of the history of the English language, Elaine Higgleton(Collins)
12.00 – 13.00 Enabling customized teacher education to maximize its effectiveness,Balasubrahmanian S. 
14.00 – 14.30 Integrating English with content learning in wet weather conditions inIndia, Mike Scholey 
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Book Launch: India’s Risks: Democratizing the Management of Threats to Environment, Health and Values

Synopsis of the Book : A prospective superpower, India is still grappling with a host of risks that threaten to hamper its progress. These range from environmental threats caused by GM crops and pollution; dangers to health from HIV/AIDS and maternal mortality; safety concerns about natural hazards, nuclear power, and industrial disasters; and challenges to livelihoods and values.

Some of the issues that this volume explores are: what counts as an ‘acceptable’ risk, and who decides? How should divergent perceptions of risks be reconciled? And, where is the line between science and politics? Advocating a more multidimensional approach to managing risks, the authors challenge many of the dominant perspectives in India.

The field of risk research, which has emerged over the last 40 years in the West, has been relatively unexplored in India. In an effort to bridge this gap, this volume brings together Indian and Western scholars and practitioners across the fields of psychology, anthropology, law, politics, sociology, public health, philosophy, science, and architecture, who offer insights on the theory of risk.

The book edited by Raphaelle Moor and M.V. Rajeev Gowda will feature experts such as Prof Shiv Visvanathan, Professor and Vice Dean Centre for the Study of Science, Society and Sustainability Jindal School of Government and Public Policy O.P Jindal University, Mr.Keshav Desiraju Secretary GOI Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distributionand and Dr.Nafees Meah, Director, Research Council UK (RCUK) along with Prof. Rajeev Gowda and Prof Ian Scoones, Director Steps Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex.

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GED: Women and Leadership ‘The Absent Revolution’


This dialogue will:

  • Present the research findings from “Women in Higher Education Leadership in South Asia”, a British Council report in collaboration with the Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research (CHEER), University of Sussex.
  • Draw upon knowledge from the global academy and other sectors on how women have succeeded in overcoming barriers to leadership.
  • Discuss the importance of networks as a key to success – and why they fail.
  • Discuss enabling inclusivity and diversity within leadership as a key element of institutional culture change.
  • Identify specific actions and interventions for change.

The under-representation of women in influential and senior leadership positions in the global academy is a global challenge. A key question is whether women are being rejected as leaders or are refusing and resisting leadership positions in higher education.

Participation in Education for women is now approaching parity with men at both secondary and undergraduate level (and in some countries surpassing men). Yet this has not translated into senior appointments and leadership positions in education institutions globally.

In Higher Education for example, only 3 per cent of women are Vice-Chancellors in South Asia and in the UK only 17%. This inequity of access and opportunity is mirrored across the leadership spectrum from young researchers, senior administrators, professorships, Vice Chancellors and Chancellorships.

Whilst women are beginning to break the glass ceilings in all sectors of industry (even those in traditionally male preserves of manufacturing, IT and engineering), scaling the ivory towers is still seen as precarious and the preserve of men.

The social and economic benefits of a more inclusive and diverse leadership team have been well articulated. South Asia is experiencing a large sector expansion, which requires a new generation of academics and leaders, without perpetuating and reproducing the present inequalities, absences and exclusions.

You can download the report and programme schedule from this link

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World Voice Project: Workshop and Showcase

With a frosty breeze & a brilliant sun peeking out, at the same time, Kullu is the quintessential hill station; a small town set in the heart of Himachal Pradesh. Kullu provided great promise as the venue for a World Voice Project (WVP) Workshop and Showcase with the WVP India Champion, Mohit Chauhan! Complementing the WVP Workshop was an introduction to the Drama in Classroom Project (DCP).

The workshop saw 120 teachers attend sessions conducted by British Council trainers and the state-level-master trainers. The teachers were introduced to an arts-integrated learning approach through music & drama and took to the program quite enthusiastically. The trainers also had the opportunity to train a large group of children and give the teachers insight and a hands-on approach on using music & drama as additional pedagogical tools in their resource kit. The beauty of the concept was that Indian students were learning traditional folk songs from Senegal & England, giving them a brilliant taste of different cultures.

The icing on the cake was the WVP showcase on the final day with the WVP India Champion, Mohit Chauhan, held at the historic Kala Kendra. Mr. Chauhan, who hails from Himachal Pradesh, walked out to an explosive round of applause by a whopping 1,400 strong audience and the local band playing his best numbers. The showcase included him singing along with the trained children, exhibiting WVP in the truest form possible. It also saw Ms. Shaguna Gahilote, the State Project Director for SSA, Mr Ghanshyam Chand & the Himachal Pradesh State Pedagogy Coordinator, Ms Manjula Sharma, deliver talks on Arts Education. The showcase ended with a press conference where Mr Chauhan was happy to share his views, candid and in-the-flesh.

The Kullu locals, teachers & students alike were fascinated and intrigued with the education-through-arts approach and showed promise for inculcating this approach into their curriculum and teaching methods. With a fruitful tour in Kullu, ending with a cracker of a showcase, WVP & DCP left Kullu yearning for more.

Until next time!

Post by: Kshitij Sahney

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John Newbigin: Discussing The Creative Industries at The UK India Business Council

Earlier in October, Creative England chairman John Newbigin and board member Ian Livingstone joined Business Secretary Vince Cable and a host of UK business delegates in India for this year’s UK India Business Council.

These conferences are a great opportunity to beat the drum for UK Industry, attract inward investment and foster closer cultural and business ties between the UK and India.This particular Council conference was unique in that it was the first of its kind to feature a session dedicated to the creative industries which John planned and chaired. We asked him to report back on his trip and share his thoughts on the event. 

Trade between the UK and India was worth £11bn in 2009, £16.4bn last year and the government believes it’s on track to exceed £20bn by 2015, so doubling in value in just 6 years and making the UK one of India’s top three trading partners. And it’s a two-way business – the biggest single private investor in UK industry is the Indian Tata group, whose highest profile company is Jaguar Land Rover.

To help keep this amazing growth trend going, there’s an annual business conference in Delhi that attracts around a hundred British companies who want to get a better understanding of how Indian markets work and where opportunities lie by meeting Indian entrepreneurs, business executives and policy wonks.

In the past, the conference-goers have been what you might call the usual suspects – they’ve come from the automotive industries, aerospace, defence, financial services, education, pharmaceuticals. But this year, creative industries were added to the list and I was asked to plan and chair the inaugural session.

Despite its unique heritage of creative craft skills and the mind-boggling ingenuity of the country’s creative entrepreneurs (it’s a long-standing joke that there is no word in the Hindi language for ‘obsolete’ because nothing is ever obsolete in India – there’s always someone smart enough, or desperate enough, to re-cycle or re-purpose anything that’s been thrown away) the concept of the creative industries as a distinct sector is still relatively new in India.

Read the rest of the blog here

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Towards a multilingual education research partnership for India

mle eventEnglish Partnerships team of the British Council India convened a research round-table on multilingual education in Delhi on 18 and 19 September 2014. The Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism at the University of Reading had proposed a collaborative research partnership with Indian universities and institutions to investigate the issues around multilingual literacy and education at the primary level in India.

India is a country with linguistic diversity that befits a continent. There is in place a three language formula for school education. However, in practice teachers are often faced with immense difficulty dealing with the challenges this diversity poses in everyday classroom situations. How do teachers deal with a multilingual class that does not match with his or her own language(s)? How does one transition students who speak a tribal or a highly localised language to the provincial language and then on to Hindi, the national language? And where does English sit within all of this, when is it right to introduce this and how?

Before the roundtable, Prof Ianthi Maria Tsimpli and Prof Jeanine Treffers-Daller, both from the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism at the University of Reading and I spent some time looking at classroom practices at  a few schools in North India.

At a rural primary school run by the NGO Digantar well outside Jaipur, the last few miles of the access road to which was no more than a ribbon of dirt track, we witnessed outstanding practice of how Dhundari, the home language of the pupils, was being innovatively used by the teachers to teach them the basics, introducing them gradually to Hindi and all along using a number of creative tactile experiments to introduce complex concepts such as “place value” in mathematics or “condensation” in environment science. Colleagues from an education NGO, Sandhan, led by the inspirational Dr Sharda Jain, met us and discussed how they dealt with cultural issues around language teaching in Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalay, a girls’ school in Udaipur (Rajasthan). “While introducing English, which is perceived to be important for the world of work, we have to be really careful not to devalue the home language,” Dr Jain observed.

Reflecting on their visit, Jeanine and Ianthi wrote back to say:

The visit to Digantar school in Jaipur was an unprecedented experience for us. The commitment of the teachers, the collegiality, the joyful atmosphere between them and the pupils and the hard work that both sides are putting into this is exemplary. Re. resources: we were impressed by the computer room where pupils could engage in developing computer skills and used both Hindi and English for word processing. Needless to say, the human resources in the Digantar school outweigh all other challenges.

We also visited a Central School (Kendriya Vidyalay) and a state-government school, both in Delhi, observing the care, concern and enthusiasm of the teachers in adopting innovative methodologies in dealing with the linguistic, cultural and socio-economic diversity in India’s capital and largest city.

The research round-table was the first step towards an open discussion, charting out the key questions and the hypothesis for the research, identifying possible approaches, inviting contributors to join advisory and programme boards and charting out a roadmap and a provisional timetable.

At the meeting in Delhi, Ianthi and Jeanine met with representatives of the British Council India, Unicef India, academics from Universities in India and representatives from NGOs and CSROs to discuss the framework for setting up a longitudinal project into the role of mothertongues and regional languages in learning and teaching in India.

On the evening of 18 September, there was a panel discussion on the “Benefits and challenges of multilingual education in India” where Dr Dhir Jhingran (Unicef India), Prof Ianthi Tsimpli, Dr Rukmini Banerji (Pratham – ASER Centre), Prof Paul Gunashekar (EFL University, Hyderabad) spoke on the various aspects of multilingual education in India, with critical contributions from Prof Ajit Mohanty and Dr Mahendra Mishra (ICICI Foundation).

We are now putting together a research consortium of interested parties who would like to be involved in the development of this project, with a view to submit a joint application for funding.

The following individuals and organisations took part in the round-table discussions:

Name Designation Institution
Ajit Mohanty ICSSR National Fellow Jawaharlal Nehru University
Padmini Boruah Associate Professor, Department of English Language Teaching Gauhati University
Paul Gunashekar Dean, School of English Language Education The English and Foreign Languages University
Dr. Mahendra K Mishra State Head Education – Chhatishgarh ICICIF ICICI Foundation-Chhattisgarh
Meenal Sarda Education Specialist UNICEF India
Dr. Dhir Jhingran Senior Advisor, Education UNICEF
Natalia Mufel Education Specialist UNICEF India
Shubhra Chatterjee Director Vikramshila
Rukmini Banerji Director Pratham – ASER Centre
Renu Sharma  Associate Pratham
Parismita Singh Associate Pratham
Ranajit Bhattacharya General Manager Pratham ASER Centre

By Dr Debanjan Chakrabarti

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More language, more person

The taxi-less roads did not deter ELT whizzes and exponents in Kolkata, who went on a linguistic, educational and cultural overdrive with a lively debate on ‘English Medium Instruction: Boon or curse? that followed an engaging talk by Prof. Andy Curtis on the subject.

Andy Curtis is Professor in the School of Graduate Education at Anaheim University, California and the president of TESOL International. His talk, on 11 August in Kolkata and 13 August in Patna, took great care to present research related to the two opposing schools of thought, viz. the perceived position of English as the ‘language of inclusion’ vs. the possibility of it being the ‘language of intrusion’.

He elaborated on the historical and political significance of the EMI debate in India, with particular reference to India’s colonial past, while also highlighting how the various Indian Englishes have contributed to keeping the language a ‘living, breathing organism’. Prof. Curtis stressed on the need for a strong debate on EMI in India.

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The panel discussion and the audience response turned out to be a thought-provoking session, with a combination of long-standing views of the Indian education system and progressive comments on the pertinent impact of technology, globalisation and India’s presence as a multi-lingual and multi-cultural expanse with an internationally competitive edge.

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Prof. Anuradha Lohia, Vice-Chancellor, Presidency University, pointed out how several generations of Indian school-going children learnt English ‘by default’ without there being any choice in the matter. She acknowledged that more and more learners of this generation had the option of continuing education in their chosen language, but higher education demands a knowledge of English. She attributed this scenario to the fact that English is the language of research and development, therefore a ‘language of necessity’ for young people who will soon become global citizens. She also put forth an interesting question of whether lack of English could become an impediment for those aspiring for a career in technical fields, or if they could still make it big in the international arena.

The Director of Modern High School for Girls in Kolkata, Ms. Devi Kar, responded to Prof. Curtis and Ms Lohia by raising the question of whether English might also be seen as the ‘language of exclusion’, especially in higher education. From her own experience of teaching and learning, Ms Kar pointed out how pronunciation and accent formed the ‘great divide’ for Indian English speakers, by bringing up the long-ensuing war between substance and language style. The crux of Ms Kar’s response was based on bilingual language teaching and how it was a more organic way of teaching languages in India, especially due to the need for constant code-switching and code-mixing in the diverse linguistic panorama.

Academic Manager of British Council Teaching Centre in Kolkata, Mr Rajeev Bakhshi, took on the debate of the purpose and need for English learning in India, by emphasising that students in the English classroom looked upon English as a means of seeking better jobs or securing a better future for themselves, not only in terms of monetary benefit, but also for more promising careers and a global identity.

The audience posed questions on a number of issues ranging from how English is taught in schools, to which Prof Curtis responded by saying that the current style of grammar-focussed teaching can limit linguistic creativity to a great extent. To another question on how English language is linked to ‘who we are’, Prof Curtis advocated the ideology of plurality while pointing out the fossilisation of language and clear markers of an individual’s identity, influence how we speak.

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The stimulating discussion ended with a consensus that despite the ambivalence towards EMI globally, multilingualism is the way forward. Prof Curtis encapsulated this belief with the comment ‘diversity is strength’ and Sujata Sen rounded off session by saying English language learning is indeed a boon in India and the debate on EMI should continue, in interest of betterment of education in India.

The debate continued in Patna  where a turnout of 86 people on a day it rained very heavily included a mix of senior education policy makers from SCERT (director and his deputy, VC of Patna University), teacher educators from our own BLISS project, Pratham Bihar unit (including their state head), several school principals from our schools network.

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A lively interaction followed the lecture, with questions of linguistic imperialism and dangers of English cropping up (and tackled very well by Andy). The discussion was moderated by Debanjan Chakrabarti.

Both events were covered very well in the mainstream media (the Telegraph, Hindu, Hindustan Times, several agencies).

This was the first in a series of programmes that strategically brings together our work in research and publications, particularly on the (tricky) issue of EMI and related pedagogic approaches, aligned to our state partnership programmes and looking at the medium term milestone of the Language and Development Conference late in 2015.

Post by: Samathmika Balaji

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