British Council India, working in partnership with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the UK Trade and Industry (UKTI) and Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), presented the UK India English Partnerships Forum in London on 30 January 2013 at its corporate headquarters at Spring Gardens.
Over 100 key external contacts from the UK English language teaching sector, drawn from the public as well the private sectors and cutting across all levels, including research interests from the HE, took part in the intense half-day event.
The Indian delegation included Mr Rajendra Darda, Honourable Minister of Education form Maharashtra, one of India’s largest states with a strong industry, finance and entrepreneurship background, Prof Sunaina Singh, VC of the English and Foreign Language University (EFL-U) of India and Sanjiv Kaura, CEO, Corporate Social Responsibility of Times of India Group, one of the largest media conglomerates in India and Dr Rukmini Banerjee, Director of Pratham ASER Centre, the largest NGO working in education India.
Rob Lynes, Country Director, British Council India, and Mark Robson, Director English and Examinations, stressed the role of English in growing cultural relations and international business.
While Prof R Amritavalli of the EFL-U framed the extremely varied context of English language learning in the country, Alison Barrett (Assistant Director, English Partnerships, India) shared lessons the British Council has gleaned from working extensively in tandem with state governments, NGOs, corporate social responsibility organisations, UK institutions such as the Open University and donors such DFID and UNICEF.
Dr Rukmini Banerjee presented the findings of the English learning outcomes at the primary level in India from the ASER 2012 survey.
Michael Connolly presented the British Council’s DFID-supported work in the state of Bihar, one of the least developed states in India, through an excellent film that captured the yearning for education among some of the most deprived and marginalised communities in India, and the role of English within that demand for quality education. Prof Richard Smith of Warwick University and Prof Paul Gunashekar of EFL-U presented the priorities and a framework for bilateral cooperation between the two countries in ELT research.
Chris Brandwood, Director English, South Asia, chaired the second session which presented opportunities in India for English language providers in the UK. Leighton Ernsberger, Senior Education and Skills Advisor, British High Commission in India, presented bespoke research on the ELT market in India, while Nirupa Fernandez, Assistant Director English Digital Partnerships, British Council India gave an overview of what opportunities India offered in terms of English language learning technology platforms, softwares and applications.
Rebecca Walton, Director Partnerships and Business Development and member of the British Council’s executive summed up the day’s proceedings by underlining the importance of partnerships in British Council’s work.
“The British Council is extremely relevant in India because it brings together people and expertise from several sectors on one platform, from English language, to education, to development, to civil society partnerships,” said Dr Rukmini Banerjee. She was responding to a question from a journalist, on why the British Council continues to assist 11 state governments in India in improving English in the public education systems despite the in-house expertise of a country that has over 300 million speakers of English.
There were several face-to-face meetings set up on the sidelines of the forum, and delegates from India also visited the National College of School Leadership in Nottingham, the BETT Show in London and visited the Centre for Applied Linguistics at Warwick University.
At Warwick, the impressive buildings of the Warwick Manufacturing Group, many of them sporting the Tata logo, brought a smile on the face of the Indian delegates and staff, a timely reminder of the ties that bind India and the UK and the language we share in common – English.