Brand new e- li­brary fa­cil­i­ties is just one of the sur­prises in store for stu­dents at Bri­tish Coun­cil In­dia. By Son­ali Achar­jee

India Today - - ASPIRE -

Be it help with the Com­mon­wealth Schol­ar­ships, mock tests to pre­pare for your IELTS exam or sim­ply the lat­est Bri­tish nov­els, Bri­tish Coun­cil In­dia has long of­fered In­di­ans a num­ber of li­brary, ed­u­ca­tion and cul­tural ser­vices. Now in its 64th year in In­dia, this in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tute is only set to be­come even big­ger and bet­ter in the years ahead.

The iconic build­ing in New Delhi was the first of­fice of Bri­tish Coun­cil In­dia and was de­signed by renowned ar­chi­tect Charles Cor­rea. First opened in 1993, the li­brary build­ing dis­plays a unique mu­ral by Howard Hodgkin on the façade sym­bol­is­ing a banyan tree along with a sculp­ture by Stephen Cox called the ‘ De­scent of the Ganges’. “Apart from be­ing a her­itage land­mark in the area, Bri­tish Coun­cil is also one of the few places in the city where one can read a book in to­tal com­fort and si­lence. The read­ing rooms, com­puter ser­vices, jour­nals, mag­a­zines, news­pa­pers, videos and books are a stu­dent’s dream come true. What one can­not ac­cess in pub­lic li­braries or book­shops in Delhi, one can eas­ily find at the Bri­tish Coun­cil,” says As­meeta Kumar, 21, from Delhi.

At present the in­sti­tute of­fers a range of spe­cialised projects in arts, ed­u­ca­tion, ex­ams, English lan­guage and so­ci­ety to over 1 lakh mem­bers. Each of the nine cen­tres cur­rently boasts of a to­tal col­lec­tion of up to 25,000 print books, 4,000 DVDs, 300 au­dio­books and 50 of the best pe­ri­od­i­cals and news­pa­pers from the UK. They also pro­vide ac­cess to English lan­guage train­ing and learn­ing for both stu­dents and teach­ers and op­por­tu­ni­ties for In­di­ans to study in the UK. The pres­ti­gious Ju­bilee Schol­ar­ships, Com­mon­wealth Schol­ar­ship and Fel­low­ship Plan and Charles Wal­lace In­dia Trust awards are man­aged by the in­sti­tute.

De­spite hav­ing its head­quar­ters in Delhi, the Bri­tish Coun­cil also has its of­fices in Chen­nai, Kolkata and Mum­bai and has its pres­ence in other cities through li­brary and cul­tural ser­vices in Ahmed­abad, Ben­galuru, Chandi­garh, Hyderabad and Pune. Now th­ese li­braries are set to get a makeover as the in­sti­tute makes plans to grow its ser­vices out­side of the met­ros. “There is a grow­ing hunger amongst In­di­ans to ac­cess ed­u­ca­tion and cul­tural ma­te­rial. Th­ese as­pi­ra­tions are no longer re­stricted to the met­ros. We are now look­ing to ex­pand our Chandi­garh li­brary and in­creae our pres­ence in smaller towns as well to meet this de­mand,” says Rob Lynes, di­rec­tor of Bri­tish Coun­cil In­dia.

The Bri­tish Coun­cil li­brary al­ready of­fers over 70,000 books and 14,000 jour­nals through its on­line data­base. But the vol­ume of ma­te­rial avail­able on­line is only set to grow now. “Tech­nol­ogy has changed the world and the way peo­ple in­ter­act with one an­other. We can­not be dis­con­nected from the de­mands of to­day’s gen­er­a­tion. More and more peo­ple want to ac­cess use­ful and qual­ity in­for­ma­tion on their phones, com­put­ers or tablets from the com­fort of their own

homes. Our aim is to ex­pand our on­line re­sources to make even more books, jour­nals, news­pa­pers, videos and mag­a­zines avail­able to our mem­bers,” adds Lynes.

An­other high­light of the li­brary are the an­nual ed­u­ca­tion fairs held on their premises. Show­cas­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives from lead­ing Bri­tish uni­ver­si­ties, th­ese fairs have long at­tracted stu­dents from across the coun­try. “Bri­tish Coun­cil was my first point of con­tact when I de­cided I wanted to study in the UK. From schol­ar­ships to cour­ses, visas, ac­com­mo­da­tion and work op­por­tu­ni­ties in Lon­don, I found an­swers to vir­tu­ally ev­ery as­pect of stu­dent life from the in­sti­tute,” says Malini Singh, 19, from Chen­nai.

Last year over 50 dif­fer­ent UK uni­ver­si­ties came down to meet with stu­dents at Bri­tish Coun­cil In­dia. “Go­ing for­ward we are plan­ning to con­duct more and more on­line ed­u­ca­tion fairs. So in­stead of phys­i­cally com­ing down to meet the rep­re­sen­ta­tives, you will be able to in­ter­act with them over email, Skype or chat,” says Lynes.

English lan­guage train­ing is also a key of­fer­ing and the in­sti­tute has trained over 7.5 lakh In­dian teach­ers in English through their four ded­i­cated English learn­ing cen­tres in Delhi, Chen­nai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. “I wanted to pur­sue a part- time ca­reer at a call cen­tre. For this I needed to work on my ac­cent. The lan­guage cour­ses at Bri­tish Coun­cil re­ally helped me im­prove my pro­noun­ci­a­tion and dic­tion. It’s also a great place to make new friends and learn about the Bri­tish cul­ture,” says Sharda Srini­vasan, 25, a stu­dent from Chen­nai. Last year over two mil­lion peo­ple from 90 dif­fer­ent coun­tries took their English lan­guage ex­ams with the Bri­tish Coun­cil. In In­dia the in­sti­tute of­fers train­ing for IELTS, Cam­bridge English ex­ams and var­i­ous other pro­fes­sional ex­ams.

To fur­ther im­prove their lit­er­ary work in In­dia, the in­sti­tute has also tied up with the Jaipur Lit­er­a­ture Fes­ti­val, Hay Fes­ti­vals in In­dia and the Kolkata Book Fes­ti­val. “English lan- guage train­ing has long been our fo­cus and all our train­ers are ac­cred­ited by Cam­bridge English. We have both on­line and off­line re­source ma­te­rial avail­able for stu­dents or teach­ers look­ing to sit for English lan­guage ex­ams,” adds Lynes.

For those as­pi­rants look­ing to learn English who do not have a Bri­tish Coun­cil in their home city, the in­crease in on­line learn­ing cour­ses comes as wel­come re­lief. “There are many on­line pro­grammes in English avail­able but I would still choose to do one from the Bri­tish Coun­cil be­cause of the lat­ters rep­u­ta­tion. One can be sure that the train­ing from the in­sti­tute will not only be gen­uine but will also be recog­nised on an in­ter­na­tional level,” says Jhanvi Dutt, 21, from Pa­ni­pat. Dutt at­tend­ing IELTS prepa­ra­tion cour­ses at Bri­tish Coun­cil Delhi. “I don’t have a Bri­tish Coun­cil in my home­town so I had no choice but to at­tend classes in Delhi. I re­vised us­ing their on­line guide. The re­vi­sion re­ally paid off as I scored a 7.0 in the exam. It would be great to have more on­line learn­ing re­sources as it saves you the trou­ble of re­lo­cat­ing to an­other city only to at­tend a few classes,” adds Dutt. With the in­sti­tute look­ing to add to their on­line and off­line pres­ence, stu­dents cer­tainly have lots to look for­ward to now.

Stu­dents bor­row­ing books at the Bri­tish Coun­cil li­brary in Chandi­garh ( far left); Stu­dents en­ter­ing the Bri­tish Coun­cil li­brary in Delhi ( left); Class­room lec­ture in progress at Bri­tish Coun­cil Delhi ( be­low left); the iconic Bri­tish Coun­cil In­dia build­ing in the heart of New Delhi ( be­low right)

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