I had finally taken the first step towards overcoming my fear of the audience and the stage – Hareni’s Learning Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

HUMANS OF BRITISH COUNCIL (5)

I am Hareni Elango, an eleventh grader at Chettinad Hari Shree Vidyalayam. I am currently in Senior Secondary School in the Humanities Stream. I am passionate about the English language. I only possessed effective reading skills but my speaking skills were not very impressive.

I had stage fright which was visible to the audience. There were many instances when my speech was well prepared, but on stage, I failed miserably. I would sweat profusely, start stuttering and forget almost half of the speech. I was crushed when I walked off from the stage. It was utterly humiliating. I decided that speaking on a public forum was just not my cup of tea!

Being a member of the British Council, I came to know about the English Impact – advanced course, which piqued my interest. I joined the course and reaped phenomenal results within the first two weeks of the course itself. To be specific, after joining the course it made me eager to participate in more public speaking competitions and debates at school as well as outside. It motivated me to enrol for a virtual discussion on “Gender Equality” with the Indian International Model United Nations 2016 and participated with some students from the USA.

After the discussion, I was thrilled to hear the feedback on my performance from my class teacher. I felt satisfied and content. I had finally taken the first step towards overcoming my fear of the audience and the stage. The credit goes the British Council’s English Impact course. It also forged some new friendships which give me an opportunity to engage in some very interesting conversations and discussions.

Overall it has been an amazing and certainly helpful experience.

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My goal in life is to become an author – Kuhoo’s Learning Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

HUMANS OF BRITISH COUNCIL (4)

I am Kuhoo Mitra. I am presently thirteen years old. My hobbies mainly include reading storybooks, writing short stories and drawing. My aspiration is to travel around the world.

In reality, I do not currently have too many opportunities to travel the world. However, I have another option and that is through books. Books always transport me to a place far from reality to places I have only ever dreamed of going to and, of course, to places I shall never be able to go to since they exist only in the world of books and fiction. A girl of class eight, still in school, I usually am cheerful and joyous and as many put it, extremely talkative. Coming to my dislikes, I absolutely dread Maths! Apart from that, there are quite a few things that I don’t like such as holidays when I’m forced to stay at home and Chemistry lessons in school.

My goal in life is to become an author and that was the main reason I joined British Council.

I have forever loved English, both as a language and as a subject. As I’ve stated above, I want to be an author when I grow up. Though I could speak, read and write English fairly well I felt that I needed to improve to achieve my goal in life. That was when my thoughts turned to British Council. I have been a member of this library since when I was very small, maybe seven. Even then I would come to the library quite often for various workshops including those about art. It first struck me when I was in class six that I needed to improve my English. There was more to this language than the stories and poems I had learnt in my literature class in school. I wanted to go into the depth of this language, find out more about it. It took me one more year to realise that the perfect place for this was none other than British Council.

I have been a member of this library since when I was very small, maybe seven. Even then I would come to the library quite often for various workshops including those about art. It first struck me when I was in class six that I needed to improve my English. There was more to this language than the stories and poems I had learned in my literature class in school. I wanted to go into the depth of this language, find out more about it. It took me one more year to realise that the perfect place for this was none other than British Council.

I don’t quite remember my first time here or how I had found out about British Council. But I do remember how I found out about the classes. Since I regularly visit the British Council Library, I know almost everyone there. It was one of the administrators who had first mentioned these classes while talking to me and my mother. It was decided- I would take these classes. Thus, I appeared for my level test and joined the British Council classes for the first time.

I have been part of the British Council for so long that today it’s almost home to me. I cry when I hear I’ll have to miss a class and though I know that I’ll be leaving this place after the sixth module, it still seems unbelievable that I won’t come here every week- something that I’ve been doing for the past two years. So, I can’t state one thing that I’ll remember about this wonderful time. There are loads of memories from this time that I will treasure all my life. The very first one is counting down my days to the next Saturday, that feeling of excitement on a Friday evening, the happiness in the air on a Saturday morning and, of course, feeling sad when the class comes to an end.

British Council has not only taught me the English language. It has also taught me certain values of life such as friendship. All activities in British Council encourage pair work and teamwork. And as we all know pair work and teamwork help to build strong friendships because that’s when we help each other to succeed. There’s a quote which says- “Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success”. Because of this, I made several wonderful friends here in British Council and they are people I can never forget. But most of all the people whom I shall remember forever are the teachers who taught me. They stood by my side not only when I was in trouble but also during moments of happiness. They are teachers who are very friendly and the learning experience is fun all because of them. I will never forget them.

British Council has also completely changed my views about learning. Before, learning to me meant burying my head into big, fat textbooks and mugging up chapters. School taught me that learning is about understanding concepts and being able to do well in your exams. From others, I heard that learning is just another synonym of ‘studying’. But after joining British Council I realised that all these ideas were wrong. Learning is about increasing your knowledge. To learn, you don’t need to study from textbooks. Neither do you need to get full marks in your exams. All you need to do to learn is understand and remember. But learning isn’t complete without an element of fun in it because I feel that to learn you need to enjoy learning more and more. And British Council is a place that is full of fun and enjoyment.

My advice to a person looking to learn something new would be to join an institute which allows people to think on their own, where, like at British Council, ‘no answer is a wrong answer’, where people have lots of fun through learning itself. And if the person wants to learn or improve his/her English or wants to learn something new about the language then I would surely recommend that he/she joins the British Council.

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The CELTA experience is all about ‘Focus’ – Shailini’s #CELTA Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

HUMANS OF BRITISH COUNCIL (3)

Hi, my name is Shalini Jain and I am currently a Teacher of English at the British Council.

Having spent 12 years in the UK, most of them working in a typical 9-5 setting, I felt a change was long overdue. I imagined doing something more creative and rewarding in my professional life. After exploring a lot of options, I finalised on teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL). I have always been a linguaphile and I felt that being an English Language Teacher would enable me to experience life in more than one language.

When I went through the work prospects, it was apparent that if you are serious about EFL, then a formal qualification is a minimum requirement. On exploring all the available courses, I surmised that there couldn’t be a more reputable course in this field than CELTA.

I decided to pursue this course through the British Council because it is a highly regarded organisation and I could connect with the values that the Council stands for.

The CELTA experience is all about ‘Focus’. There was no luxury to be a procrastinator or a perfectionist! The four-week period was one of the most challenging and yet rewarding times for me. There wasn’t a lot of ‘learning’ involved, as much as ‘unlearning’- of notions, perceptions, and skills to deal with people.

CELTA is all about ‘learning by doing’. We were teaching students from Day Two. It seemed daunting at first, but by the end of week one, we had started to learn the ropes of English Language Teaching (ELT).

Our tutors – Steven, Vandana, and Robin were our lighthouses! They demonstrated excellent models of teaching. During our feedback sessions, they offered personalised constructive input which enabled us to improve our teaching skills significantly.

There was a lot to be learnt from fellow CELTA trainees too. The class environment was rich because of people from different personal and professional backgrounds. It was not a competitive course at all, and everyone was supportive of each other. We bonded over colours, scissors and glue sticks like 5-year-olds!

On most days you feel like an android- sleepless nights, long days, living on caffeine shots and sugar rush! Even so, I would recommend this course as the best way to get a solid footing in the fascinating world of ELT.

CELTA has enabled me to reskill myself as a teacher and create a more rewarding career path. It has helped me regain a sense of purpose and achievement both professionally and personally.

When I interact with students of various nationalities, I gain an insight into different parts of the world. Through discussions with my colleagues, I unleash the power of collaborative working. By observing senior teachers and connecting with teachers across the globe, I draw inspiration to enhance my teaching skills.

It is ultimately a dream job and I want to teach in as many countries as I can.

 

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Pedagogy is an art and urgently needs to be implemented into our education system – Sayed’s Learning Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

Humans of British Council

I am Sayed Faiz Tanvir. I was born and brought up in New Delhi. Since 2010, I have been living in Bangalore and have been working in the IT industry in different capacities.

As a young student at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi), I could read and write pretty well, with a few grammatical mistakes. Speaking was a major impediment to me.

This year I read about the British Council in a national daily; most probably the Times of India and enrolled myself on a course. The best part of the quality of education was that it was not a ‘learn by rote’ methodology. I learned many valuable things, had fun and always felt motivated. The teachers never put a dent on my morale.

And has my view on learning changed in any way after my time at the British Council? Yes, of course! I have stopped reading books on grammar; as I feel these are often too tedious and clumsy and even after hard work it’s difficult to grasp many grammatical rules. Instead, I visit the web portal advised by the British Council teachers and do exercises with more comfort and enjoyment.

Finally, I would like to say, try innovation. I think pedagogy is an art and urgently needs to be implemented into our education system. One should and must visit portals and learn online.

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Barkha’s #CELTA Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

Humans of British Council

Hi, my name is Barkha Vahi and I have been a teacher for five years now and have taught at private schools, corporates, and language schools. I had completed another initial certification in EFL teaching which only motivated me to do The Cambridge Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA). When I started teaching and looking for prospects abroad, one name which came up, again and again, was CELTA and I couldn’t have avoided acquiring this certificate. As an ELT professional, I couldn’t imagine a pathway forward without having completed CELTA.
CELTA lived up to its reputation of being super intensive. Even though I had previous experience in teaching, CELTA gave me a fresh perspective to a lot of concepts which I dismissed earlier. Initially, it was difficult for me to be able to adapt to all the input but when I sat down to analyse everything pragmatically, it just seems to flow so logically. My teaching changed forever.
Now every time I walk into my class, I know exactly what I am doing, how I am doing and why am I doing it. As a teacher, CELTA has raised my awareness of different learning styles, learner needs, and managing learner expectations. It has helped me so much in planning lesson aims and achieving them by the end of the lesson. CELTA has been a great experience. I am in touch with my tutors and seek help if need be. It has opened doors for me globally and gives me an edge in the industry.
I would recommend this course to anyone who is seriously thinking of getting into the ELT industry.

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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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