Author Archives: dcfrombc

British Council India launches international research on education change management

I write this on the morning flight from Calcutta to Delhi, on my way to the national launch of our global research publication on English language, Managing Change in English Language Teaching: Lessons from Experience, edited by Dr Chris Tribble.

Am lucky to have a window seat. On a clear summer day like this the vast Gangetic plain lies spread out like pages on an open atlas. The snow-capped Himalayan peaks, Mt Everest among them, masquerade as clouds that fringe the far horizon.


I fly over West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh on my way to Delhi, I cannot help but think that what lies beneath is one of the most densely populated human habitations not only in India but perhaps the whole world. And that the British Council has substantial English language projects in two of these three states – in Bihar and in West Bengal.

Over the next few days, as this itinerant launch programme travels from Delhi to Chennai to Patna and culminates in Chandigarh, we will be taking a hard look at critical questions on education change and demonstrating the value of project interventions to all manner of stakeholders. At each stop, the panel will feature Dr Tribble and joined by several leading policy makers, ministers of education, academics, consultants, NGOs, funding agencies.

The key areas of our enquiry at each stop will be clustered around the four major strands raised in the book:
•Policy and Design
•Monitoring and Evaluation
•Embedding and Dissemination
There will be lessons for all of us in these discussions and I suspect that at each stop there will be more issues added to the agenda.

The book itself comes at a time of great change and even greater expectations in the public provision of education in India, against the backdrop of intense debates on the implications of Right to Education Act and an increasing attrition of pupils from free government schools to fee-paying private schools, almost all of them flaunting an ‘English medium’ badge. The compilation looks at the larger issues of education change and management through the prism of language teaching and many of the conclusions drawn have far wider practical application than just English language teaching.
Managing Change will be launched at the following locations in India:
City Date Venue For invitation contact
Delhi Mon 21 May British Council

Chennai Tue 22 May Hyatt Regency

Patna Wed 23 May Hotel Chanakya

Chandigarh Fri 25 May Hotel Marriott

The panellists in Delhi are:
Dr Christopher Tribble, King’s College London (editor of the volume)
Dr Rukmini Banerjee, Director, Pratham ASER Centre
Prof Rama Mathews, University of Delhi (she is also a contributor to the volume)
Colin Bangay, Senior Education Advisor, DFID India
Clare Woodward, Open University UK (also a contributor to the volume, by videoconference)
Mike Solly, Lecturer, Open University UK (also a contributor to the volume, by videoconference)
Chair: Alan Mackenzie, Senior Training Consultant, British Council India

The panellists in Chennai are:
Dr Christopher Tribble
Clare O’Donahue, British Council Senior Training Consultant and contributor to the volume
Dr Kannappan
Mr Sundaraman
Dr V Bharathi Harishankar
Chair: Nirupa Fernandez, British Council Head English and Examinations, South India

A hard copy version of the book will be made available to all those who attend the event.

About the editor

Dr Christopher Tribble is a lecturer in Applied Linguistics at King’s College London. He has worked as a classroom language teacher in the public and private sectors in France, China and the UK, and has extensive experience as a manager and evaluator of English language projects, and as a project management trainer.
Chris also has a column in the Guardian called Weekly Words:
Chris Tribble’s current major activities include:
the development of a photographic archive of the work of the Teatr Polski in Warsaw
a photographic and documentation of the work of community groups associated with the new King’s Place Arts venue in London’s King’s Cross.
Chris Tribble is also a documentary photographer and provides a comprehensive photographic documentary service for organisations involved in education, social development and performing arts.
More on Christopher Tribble at
For more information on Managing Change launch programme in India or if you interested in contributing to the dialogue on managing change in education, write to

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Publishing Next: Day One, Session 1

The conference kicked off with a stimulating panel on “Where Are Digital Books Headed?”, chaired by Jaya Bhattacharji Rose and Radhika Menon (Tulika Books), Pratibha Sastry (JiniBooks and JiniLabs), James Birdle (Bookkake, London Lit Plus) and Kailash Balani (Aditya Books, Balani Infotech).

Radhika Menon shared a fascinating presentation on how Tulika has colloborated with several partners to create content and provide techn0logy solutions to bring books closer to children in a socially meaningful way. “Just clickability is not enough”, she said. Was really taken by the multilingual dimension of Tulika’s work.

Pratibha spoke about her own varied experience in the entertainment industry and mentioned the runaway success of Amanda Hopkins in retailing her own e-books.  Kailash Balani mentioned MHRD’s plan to provide e-books to over 20,000 colleges in India, while James Bridle compared the UK and US e-book markets through the contrasting rise to fortune of Amazon’s Kindle in the UK and Barnes and Noble’s Nook in the US.

Was really struck by James’ passion for the idea of the book and the parallel he drew between the identity and wonership issues about e-books and real books.

Posted by Debanjan Chakrabarti.


Real pity

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It’s always good (and green) in Goa: PublishingNext Conference

You have got to give it to Goa. This is my first trip to this slender slice of heaven-on-earth in the monsoons. With Goa, one expects a lot of green and blue all the year round. But it really is difficult to imagine how incredibly lush and green Goa is during the rains. I am here to attend the PublishingNext conference organised by Leonard Fernandes of Cinnamon Teal, the winner of British Council’s IYCE award for publishing last year.

The genial Leonard and his team were there to meet and greet every delegate and speaker at Dabolim airport as we arrived in dribs and drabs yesterday. As some of us made our way to our hotel in Goa’s capital city, Panjim, we watched in awe the various vibrant shades of green loom in and zoom past our speeding bus on either sides of the grey road. And the sea sparkled and shimmered not too far away.

My colleague Rwituja and I ambled around our hotel in the evening. There is an inexplicable mix of the old and the new in the capital, best reflected perhaps in its architecture – elegant old colonial buildings crumbling away, gradually being replaced by a style that can only be described as hideous modernism.

Am here to learn more about what the future holds for publishing in the brave old digital world. I am particularly keen to explore what avenues British Council might explore with our English Interface work that looks at (among other things) commissioning and disseminating action research on ELT from across the globe.

The conference aims to address the following:

  • Where are Digital Books headed?
  • The Impact of Alternate Publishing
  • Book Marketing in the Age of Social Media
  • Publishing Houses of the Future
  • Copyright Issues and IP
  • Managing the Translation Market

The programme for the day looks exciting. More anon.

PS: And it’s good to be in Goa in any season for one other reason. A bottle of Tuborg beer costs Rs 25, a bottle of water Rs 20. What do you suppose I am having to slake my thirst?

Posted by Debanjan Chakrabarti, Head English Interface, British Council India

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Soundbytes that make you think

What a fascinating morning session! Just capturing some of the thought-provoking (and sometimes provocative!) soundbytes:

  1. ‘English is a commodity language’
  2. ‘Whether or not to have English language in the Indian education system is not a cultural debate.’
  3. ‘We are at the risk of losing our cultural moorings in India because of English’
  4. ‘English in Sri Lanka is a link language only for its elite class’
  5. ‘Education system must ensure diversity and stimulte creativity in order to have productivity’
  6. There is a difference between being ‘proficient’ in English and being ‘effective’ in English. In India we need to encourage more of the latter.

Have deliberately not attributed these quotes because my memory is a fragile thing!

Irrespective of who said what, do you agree or disagree with what the panellists in the morning said? Post your comments, have your say, join the debates, throw your punches…

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Nandan to Martin, India to UK

For the inaugural programme of the Policy Dialogue at the British Council office in New Delhi, we had set up a lounging space for the speakers to meet and chat before they went on stage. This was the VC suite in our library. When Nandan Nilekani arrived last evening he was welcomed by Ruth Gee and Chris Gibson. As we were ushering him through our lively library, there was a minor stampede among our young members rushing to Nandan, asking for his autograph and requesting him to pose with them for a snapshot on their mobile cameras. Nandan obliged one and all.

It brought home the point what an iconic figure Nandan is for millions of young Indians across the length and breadth of the country. So it’s not just the cricket and Bollywood film stars that capture young India’s imagination.

Inside the lounge, Martin Davidson, our Chief Executive, met Nandan and said how grateful he was to him for giving British Council his time. What Nandan said to Martin deserves to be framed in gold and put up somewhere. He said, ”I am here to pay back my debt to the British Council. As a child, I was very privileged to be a member of the British Council library in Bangalore.” Cannot think of a better compliment than that on the occasion of our 75th anniversary!!

It also got me thinking about the chance meeting that some of our young library members had with Nandan. Some of them will probably go onto become similar successes and icons in their own right, in their own time. Will they then remember this fortuitous encounter? If they do, I think British Council will have justified the raison de etre of our existence several times over.

Cultural relations, perhaps, at the end of the day, boils down to encounters such as these. One can only create a space and context where such chance meetings can take place and destinies altered. 




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Nilekani and Graddol set the tone for English Policy Dialogue

At 6.30 pm IST, English for Progress: Third Policy Dialogue was inaugurated by Nandan Nilekani, Chair of the Unique Idenitiy Authority of India and one of the pioneers of the IT revolution in India. David Graddol presented the findings of his report English Next India.

Ruth Gee, Regional Director of the British Council in India and Sri Lanka and Martin Davidson, Chief Executive of the British Council, spoke of the importance of the Council work in the area of English language and highlighted the work of Project English in India and Sri Lanka.

In his inaugural address Nandan Nilekani said that English played a key role not only in the field of commerce  and industry but was also a key factor in cementing the diversity of India. English, he stressed was the language of opportunity and the challenge in front of the government and education agencies of all hues was to make the language more accessible and break down the class barriers surrounding the language in India at the moment.

David Graddol’s fascinating presentation raised a number of critical questions about issues we sometimes take for granted about English in the region. One such riddle was around the direct link between English and jobs in India. David took a fresh look at the easy corelation by pointing out that the link was only true of the organised services sector of the labour market, whihc was a very small fraction of the total job market. So if by a miracle, a majority of Indians had good English skills overnight, there simply wouldn’t be enough jobs to go around.

David stressed on the growing importance of English language competence as a skill at par with numeracy and ICT in the international education scene rather than a language with a baggage.

One of his most striking findings were how China is fast catching up or might even have surpassed India as far as the total number of English speakers were concerned. Part of the reason was the large scale project China embraced in 2001 to make English compulsory at the primary school level. But teacher proficiency, David said, was the key to achieving quality in English language education everywhere.

All in all, a very exciting launch of the Third Policy Dialogue. Speaking to other speakers and delgates from India and Sri Lanka, one can sense a lot of urgency among the various key education agencies to provide good English language skills.

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