What is the role of English in the world today?
English is spoken more by second language users than by native speakers. If a German businessman is working in China, both the German and his Chinese counterpart will speak English. It is purely accidental that English has this role. English no longer belongs to native speakers. Many communities speak English as a second language, and they have enriched English language by bringing all kinds of expressions and vocabularies. English is a worldwide language and in some sense it is an official worldwide language.
Nepal is neither in the Commonwealth, nor is it an English-speaking country. How are British Council's activities here different?
Fundamentally, the activities of British Council Nepal are not different from any other country. The British Council's objectives are primarily to work with young people and in Nepal, to work with people in education. Therefore, we work with professionals in primary and secondary schools as well as universities. We are helping schools in Nepal form links with schools in the United Kingdom. We have our own language center, we run British exams here in Nepal, we helped set up Nepali English Language Teachers Association and we work very closely with them. This association has matured and is independently running programs. Our library and information services are very much attuned to young people. We conduct arts program like the upcoming film festival in November, with a young audience in mind.
Education permeates everything we do. However, British Council worldwide also emphasizes on mutuality. What we do within a country has to be useful to that country. We want to build relationships by bringing UK partners and Nepali partners together. We have helped establish a number of higher education links, between universities in Kathmandu and Britain. The staff from universities on both sides is exchanged often. There is mutuality and benefits both ways and British Council is promoting the best of British education, science, technology and arts.
British Council Nepal also supports aid projects and is working in peacekeeping and health. We work closely with a group of alumni who have studied in Britain before. On behalf of British embassy we administer a scholarship whereby every year two-three students leave for the UK for graduate studies.
Therefore, for most of the things we do, we seek to have long-term impacts.
People say that the English language courses at the British Council are expensive.
I do agree that our language courses are perceived to be expensive. Our teachers are more qualified than the teachers in other schools: they are native speakers of English, professionals with recognised certification and at least two years of experience. Highly qualified and experienced teachers tend to cost more money. I hope that anybody who has been to our classes will recognise that they are getting value for money.
Where do you see British Council in Nepal going during your tenure?
I see my job as the new British Council director in terms of continuity and development. We will continue to work in support of the aid projects and in promoting higher education. We are starting a new project where British schoolteachers will visit Kathmandu and work with Nepali counterparts. A group of music education teachers are visiting Kathmandu in February next year and will work with teachers in Kathmandu. I would like to increase the number of events that we organise in Nepal. When British experts come to Kathmandu we want to organise more discussions and exchange of ideas on issues connected with their area of expertise.