At the British Council, in an air-conditioned, quiet and orderly meeting room when we gather to discuss different aspects of the school programmes, the sound of the school bell, the chaos of the corridors, the lively smiling faces of students and the energy of a busy staffroom may seem very distant. However, that is far from the truth.
Teachers are not just at the centre of our thinking they have always walked with us in our journey as an equal partner. Much of the success of many of our programmes comes from the inputs provided by teachers, and, some of those outstanding teachers have now moved on to become principals and leaders of education in various capacities.
If I had to pick top three personal favourite projects or resources of the British Council that I worked on, I would begin with the Curriculum Mapping that we did to create the “Handbook for Embedding International Dimension and Core skills in the Curriculum”, the “Teaching for Success framework” for Continuing Professional Development of teachers and the “Delhi English Project”. The reason they are my favourite is because all of them have teachers’ contribution at their heart. Let me share them with you.
The British Council prides itself on its responsiveness to feedback. Teachers associated with our International School Award and Core Skills Programme were telling us that they could not find the time and space during the daily school hours to fit in content-focussed lessons, alongside nurturing core skills as well as adding an international dimension to their regular curriculum. It was a big ask and we felt that the solution lay in developing a set of integrated lesson plans to demonstrate how this could be achieved.
We put our faith in teachers to find the solution. In two separate workshops, we got into a room with teachers from all over the country and asked them to do one thing: review the curriculum and come up with lesson plans that met the goal of nurturing core skills, in an international dimension and covering the topic they needed to go through. Over the three days shut in a stuffy hotel conference room, sometimes without any tea breaks, around 60 enthusiastic teachers got down to the task.
Some of the most amazing, innovative lesson plans were generated through this exercise. There was much debate and discussion, very passionate presentations and some really, really, out of the box ideas shared each evening as we marked the progress of the day with a debriefing session. In those moments, I felt privileged to be facilitating such a talented group of professionals. We spent many long hours afterwards sifting through the large amount of material to find the ones that were most suited to be included in our publications.
The purpose of the exercise was to create a handbook that would allow teachers to embed core-skills practice in their classroom and not to sacrifice the core content of the lesson in order to ‘teach’ core skills by doing an extra lesson or activity. It was a new concept at the time and if those teachers in the room, on that day, were initially sceptical about this new approach, they had the typical teachers’ goodness of heart, to humour me. They were quick to accept the challenge before them and dived into it with an inspiring positivity and energy.
So, when regular schools had to shut down amidst the COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year, I was not surprised that the teaching community displayed such incredible adaptability, resilience and innovation to keep the show going. It is indeed a great tribute to their commitment to making sure that students in their classrooms don’t fall behind. If you would like to take a look at what we created together look at the link given footer.1
Nothing is too much Trouble
Another one of my favourite projects where teachers were on the frontline was the Delhi English Project. In a phased manner over two years, we worked in partnership with Macmillan Education India to deliver spoken English courses to Delhi government school learners. Over 1,500 teachers and 100 senior teachers worked ceaselessly to deliver high quality lessons to more than 50,000 learners.
Working in familiar environment, with students you know is easy, but teachers on this project went to centres assigned to them in whichever part of the city and taught any batch of students they were allotted without complaint or resentment. They prepared rigorously and delivered lesson with empathy and compassion for the young people they were interacting with. They spent hours on lesson plans and training to ensure, that the lessons they delivered were impactful and engaging.
The success of the project is a testimony to their resilience and determination to get the job done under any circumstances. Nothing was too much of a problem and every effort was made to give young people the best learning experience they could imagine. The impact of their work on the lives of the students in these classrooms will never truly be measurable but we do know from the many surveys and evaluations conducted that it was an unprecedented success and the students had only deep praise for their wonderful teachers.
Committed to Lifelong Learning
The British Council has long track record of delivering teacher training programmes in partnership with state governments here in India, and across the world. In the private schools’ sector in India, over last two years, we have worked with 1300 principals and nearly 7800 teachers. We are constantly inspired by the teaching community’s thirst for knowledge. The British Council’s ‘Teaching for Success”2 is a tribute to their impressive commitment to lifelong learning and continuing professional development. This approach to teacher capacity building allows teachers and teacher mentors and educators to reflect on their strengths and skills systematically and create their own personalised pathway of professional development.
Resources available support teachers at every stage in their career to map and tailor their learning journey. Not only does it look at what needs to be learnt but also allows many possible options of how the learning experience might be customised from online courses available on the future learn platform, to action research or conference and seminars. Do take a look at it when you can and, as always, we would love to hear what you found most interesting and useful in it.
On Teachers’ Day, I would like to thank you all for your hard work and dedication. You put yourself in the line of fire every day. So much is demanded from you by the education system, leaders, society, students and parents and you unfailingly rise to the occasion every time. I wish you superhuman powers to carry on this great work that you do.
Ms. Rittika C Parruck
Assistant Director, Programmes, North India