The British Council is the UK's international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. This year the British Council is celebrating its 80th anniversary worldwide. From modest beginnings in 1934 now it has over 190 offices in over 110 countries and territories across the world. In Bangladesh, the British Council has been engaged for over 60 years, created many opportunities for its people and changed many lives. To mark this occasion, the British Council has invited Bangladeshis to share their personal stories of growth and fond memories of engagement with the organisation. The respondents were honoured at an Award Ceremony held last week at the British Council's Fuller Road office in Dhaka. Winners will enjoy a range of British Council services for free. Some of the best stories are published here for our readers.
I don't remember my first visit to the British Council but I know that the date must go back to the '70s. We had returned from the UK and our parents wanted to make sure that we don't forget the proper use of the English language. They made me and my brothers members of the British Council Library. It was there that we discovered a treasure trove, a place where the magic of a world of make-belief came to life; where the charms of kind, funny, naughty characters made us laugh and cry.
Alongside learning to read and speak well, we learnt to imagine, to explore, to be kind and responsible, and to make books part of our everyday life. As life's pages turned, we became members of the senior section. The library helped us so much by connecting us with global knowledge at a time when ITC did not rule the world.
Years went by and I became a mother. I too made sure that both my sons benefit from the library, as my brothers and I had. The library has enriched three generations in our family, and I hope it does the same for many more.
– Tahsinah Ahmed
I was born into a family of day-labourers. I cannot remember a day with three meals in my childhood. My parents could not afford even a glass of milk in a week for me. However, I was awarded primary and secondary scholarship and got admission on merit at Dhaka University's Department of Law. During my student life, I also published a book on Constitution, Constitutional Law and Politics: Bangladesh Perspective. This book and a first class degree in LLM gave me a hope to apply for Chevening Scholarship operated by British Council and British High Commission. I never thought I would be studying in the UK and become a barrister. I was awarded the prestigious scholarship in 1998. This was the turning point in my life. Under this scholarship, I studied LLM in International Trade Law at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and then LLB from the University of London. Then I was called to the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn in 2003. On returning to Dhaka, I established Children's Charity Bangladesh Foundation (CCB Foundation) for promoting child rights and child education in Bangladesh. I still get my inspiration from the diverse social works done by the British Council towards the socio-economic development in Bangladesh.
– Md. Abdul Halim, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh
It was in 2009 that I first became involved with the British Council's Connecting Classrooms. Before that I never imagined such a style of education. I began introducing ICT into the curriculum through Connecting Classrooms which got students of our madrasa acquainted with partner schools in the UK and taught them how to use international dimensions and themes of global citizenship. The training that I and our teachers received from the British Council on English, ICT, leadership and continuous professional development boosted our confidence and enhanced our teaching skills, English proficiency and IT skills.
As a Madrasa principal, I feel proud in receiving a fellowship from Durham University, UK and Commonwealth Class. Connecting Classrooms is the British Council's global education programme for schools, and it aims at helping young people learn about global issues and become responsible global citizens. As an Ambassador of the British Council, I am working with 30 schools in Chittagong, providing them with peer coaching and CPD courses. The British Council has created a platform for us through Connecting Classrooms and accelerated our expertise as mentors with 21st century skills. I also received the Best Performing Ambassador Award in 2003. With a madrasa background, it would not have been possible for me to achieve such opportunities without the British Council's help.
– Mohammad Mohiul Hoque, Principal, Naziria Naymaia Mahmudia Madrasa
When I sought assistance from British Council Bangladesh back in 2011, I knew right then that I was under the supervision of experts to help me get all the necessary guidance that I needed for applying to universities in the UK for my masters. The most equitable support the consultants of Education UK team give you towards your choice of education, university options and financial cost management had left me spellbound. I always desired to pursue a degree from the UK because of its global reputation for quality: employers worldwide recognise a UK degree as a sign of high academic standards. British Council had further heightened my intention to study in the UK as they elaborated to me the courses that will give me the required skills, qualifications, and connections that I needed to succeed in my chosen career.
I chose to study at the University of Warwick as its Business School (WBS) is ranked now among the top five UK business schools with excellent faculty involved in credible research.
– Salman Kabir, Public Relations Manager, Pan Pacific Sonargaon Dhaka
The name British Council always reminds me of quality education. As a student of ACCA, I am totally dependent on the British Council because they have the authority for conducting ACCA exams in Bangladesh. Even when I was a student of Heriot-Watt University, all my exams were conducted by the British Council on behalf of my university. That assistance has helped me to become a UK university graduate. I can still remember my first visit to the British Council. I went there for my ACCA exam registration. I was warmly welcomed, provided with the required information and cordially assisted by the staff while filling out the exam registration form. I hardly miss the UK Education Fairs and UK Education Open Days arranged by the British Council because I am planning to go to the UK to complete my MBA. The British Council is more than an educational institution where people from all walks of life with different thoughts, ideas and cultures are welcomed. It is operated by an efficient staff and highly-qualified teachers who will never let you down. The British Council has been operating with quality for last six decades and that's what made them stand out from the crowd.
– Abid Khan Shuvo, student
I am very lucky because I accomplished much at a young age – thanks to my connections with the British Council. My recollections with the British Council are interesting. One day I came across an advertisement in the newspapers that read British Council had arranged a competition for the country's budding poets under the title ''British Council Muse Masters Poetry Contest''. After much hesitation, I submitted my poems for the competition. I, who never had the opportunity to judge the merit and quality of my own writing, overnight, had been adjudged the best budding poet in Bangla. Only then I discovered that it is possible to visit the Thames for somebody who writes poetry sitting by the banks of the Buriganga River. The prize for the winner of the competition included a tour in England!
I, as a budding writer of today, will always remember the role of British Council as long as I as I write. I would like to thank the arts team of the British Council for they had found me in their pursuit of talent, and made a writer and performance artist out of me.
– Sajid-Ul-Abeer, Student
I'm 17-years-old and a student of class 12. I live in a village named Jumduara, under Manikganj district. I'm a member of a club that is being run by ADP programme. The club organises many kinds of extracurricular activities like singing, dancing, different role-playing etc. One day, a visiting officer informed us that now we can learn English through computers! He said that the British Council and BRAC are working together on this new programme and its purpose is to improve the learning skills of the students. Two peer leaders were required to teach the adolescent group. I was selected and was taken to Gulshan in Dhaka for training. There, I found many peer leaders like me. After they trained and examined us, they gave us two laptops for each club. I was also a member of the EITA club. I was not good at speaking English. Since I joined this club, I learned to speak and write well. I can use the computer properly too. Now I teach some students from which I earn to help with my educational expenses. My parents, neighbours and all of the villagers encourage me and appreciate me for my English and ICT skills. I'm grateful to British Council for giving me these opportunities.
– Shamoli Debnath, student
I've completed my graduation from Department of Finance, University of Dhaka. Situated in the university area, the British Council always poses an attractive opportunity for me to visit. I've completed the General English learning courses from the British Council while I was in third year. Since then, I've been feeling that I've a close connection with this organisation due to its high class education, the cordial help provided by the staff, the creative environment, library facilities etc. After completing my graduation in the first half of 2014, I've attained the training, namely Active Citizens Youth Leadership Training (ACYLT) which was arranged by the British Council in collaboration with Democracy Watch. This training has provided me with courage and has shaped the motto of my life: Work for the society and the development of my people. Immediately after that training, I've started a new Social Action Project (SAP) which encompasses rendering services for children affected by leukaemia and admitted at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University. Since the inauguration of the SAP till now, it has been very successful in terms of attaining its key purposes. My life has been turned into a new realm of knowledge and thoughts by the efforts of the British Council.
– Sumaiya Akter
When the target is higher education abroad, then IELTS is a must. For IELTS preparation I became a regular at the British Council Library. I had the opportunity to come in contact with the many brilliant students and seniors as my co-learners there. Whenever anybody spoke good and fluent English during my early days at the British Council I just silently listened to him/her with rapt attention. There were times when I tried my best to speak English like them but failed, yet I didn't lose heart; rather I gathered courage and said to myself “I shall surely overcome this someday.” If someone comes in touch of very good orators how long can one keep silent? Therefore, be it because of the environment or be it because of one's own interest, one is bound to learn. My IELTS result speaks for this. My good results ensure a chance at overseas education. Throughout this, I realised that an encouraging environment is necessary to facilitate English-learning. In terms of learning English no better organisation can be found than the British Council in Bangladesh.
– Saikhul Islam, student
Congratulations, British Council Bangladesh for stepping into the 64th year. I have many good experiences that are attached with British Council. Since I was a student of class 7, I had an ambition to speak in English fluently. So, in 2010, I got admitted into the British Council Library in Chittagong. After 4 years, I discovered myself becoming a fluent speaker. Later, I had to choose a well-established university of the UK and I saw an event, titled “UK-EDUCATION Open Day” on its Facebook page. I had just given my IELTS exam in the British Council and the environment is just what a student needs. After that, the way became easier for me. The British Council's Facebook page is quite helpful. One of the interesting things about it is that I got to do many exercises on their Facebook page on a daily basis and so it gave me practise on my English skills. In addition to that, the British Council's applications like “Learn English”, “Johnny Grammar” etc. also assisted me. British Council has reached out to every corner of Bangladesh and still contributing to educational growth. I am really happy and proud to be a part of it.
– Md. Mainul Hossain Turja, Student