It is working towards strengthening both school-to-school ties and links between universities. Its vision for India includes facilitating greater artistic and cultural exchange

“India remains our largest and most important country operation,” said Martin Davidson, chief executive, British Council, who is in the city as part of his tour of the region.

Mr. Davidson, who oversees the functioning of 110 offices across the world, spoke about British Council’s vision for India for the next five years, their strategy to look beyond the metro cities, remaining committed to their nine libraries in India and facilitating greater artistic and cultural exchange.

Though the British Council’s annual report for 2012-13 mentioned that by 2015, their government grant would have fallen to less than 20 per cent of their annual turnover, Mr. Davidson said it would not translate into cuts for their India initiatives.

The four focus areas were operating at greater scale across the whole country, catering to demand for learning English in India, improving education links, and introducing digital programmes.

“We are very conscious of the demand for English language here in India and not as a replacement to the national languages, but as an addition to them,” he said.

In another key area — education — they were working towards strengthening both school-to-school ties and links between universities, he said. However, he said he would like to see more young British people study and engage with India. The relationship between India and Britain was no longer the old-fashioned ‘aid and development relationship,’ he said.

“It should be looked at as a relationship of equals, a relationship which requires young people in Britain to understand India better, to engage with India and to see India as part of their future,” he said. Calling Tamil Nadu a very forward-looking State in the area of education, he said it would be a good State for them to bring British students. “It was the first State in India where we started working on our English language programme for teachers, for example” he said.

Earlier in the day, he inaugurated ‘English on Mobile’ and ‘English Strokes’, two English-language digital programmes the British Council launched in partnership with Applied Mobile Labs and AA Edutech.

“English Strokes involves teaching English using cricket. And, that is a great example of how we can use the digital and online capacity here in India to reach many more people,” he said.

Though going digital will be important, “I don’t think we should see this as only digital,” he said. “I think there is a big opportunity to expand the physical presence,” he said about venturing outside the metros, a strategy they plan to build over the next three years.

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