I’m delighted to have been posted to Algiers in September 2016 and I’d like to give an update about British Council Algeria activities after introducing myself, and to wish everyone the very best for a wonderful Spring and Summer!
After studying Philosophy and Music I served as a volunteer (VSO) teaching English in Kenya, and then in Mexico. After qualifying and working as a teacher in UK my first job with British Council was in the UAE. I then undertook a masters degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages followed by a middle management job at British Council Cairo. I studied for an MBA in Barcelona before working as a Teaching Centre Manager in Tunisia, Syria, Oman and Spain. In 2004 I was appointed Country Director in Bahrain, followed by postings in Palestine and Cyprus, before arriving here in Algeria. As you can see I’ve spent most of my career in Middle East North Africa although I was born and bred in Yorkshire in the north of England. Each country I’ve lived in is very different as regards culture, language and history, and as well as celebrating differences it’s also fascinating to look for commonalities and search for common ground. That’s one of the main reasons I was attracted to working overseas in the first place, and why I think my job is one of the best in the world!
British Council Algeria opened in 1962, and although our teaching centre and library closed in 1994 we maintained a presence in the British Embassy throughout the 1990s until we moved to our own offices from 2007 – 2011, delivering teacher training and arts events. Then back to the Embassy until 2015 when we moved into our current building in Hydra in order to reopen our British Council teaching centre to the public, following promises made by President Bouteflika and UK Prime Minister David Cameron when they met in Algiers in 2013. We are very proud of our successful teaching team who are well trained and committed to their students, and who have ensured we have one of the best re-registration rates in MENA. Since opening 2 years ago we have taught over 3,300 discrete adults, teens and young learners (which including re-registrations is almost 10,000 students!), and trained and employed a growing number of Algerian teachers who have completed the Cambridge CELTA qualification. Our Exams Service is also growing and we will deliver around 1,300 IELTS exams, having also established British Council as a centre for IELTS for Visa and Immigration purposes.
Since 2008 we have worked closely with the Ministry of National Education and Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research to support, across the whole of Algeria, the government’s desire to develop the teaching and learning of English, and their education reform agenda. In 2014 we agreed the 3 year Strategic English for Educational Development ‘SEEDS’ programme in order to respond to the interests of the ministry to develop English standards and to support UK-Algeria educational collaboration in pre- and in-service teacher training, curriculum, assessment, textbook and material preparation. Co-funded by the Ministry and Anadarko, the project focus was on building capacity of over 600 English inspectors and teacher trainers nationwide to benefit up to 32,000 teachers in middle and secondary schools to impact on around 6 million children with improved, student-centred, communicatively-based English lessons.
The most recent schools project under the bilateral UK-Algeria cooperation agreement, designed and delivered by British Council and funded by the FCO from November 2016, has been contributing to promoting prosperity and economic development in Algeria through school-based continuing professional development for new teachers of English, maths and science, again achieved by providing training to inspectors in primary, middle and secondary schools.
The most recent higher education project under the same bilateral agreement has been helping to develop an institution-wide approach to employability in the leading universities of Constantine 1, Tlemcen and Blida 1, complementing ILO and EU initiatives with government. This will ultimately enable young graduates to more closely align their skills and knowledge to employers’ needs.
Our statistics tell us that we reach over 5 million learners annually with English language content through Echourouk newspaper, our Word on the Street TV programme on BBC Arabic, and our English language series Obla Air on JiL FM. We also have half a million Algerian fans of our Learn English MENA Facebook pages and 350,000 users of our English websites which is the largest country participation in MENA. So do visit these sources for some additional language support.
Our arts programme showcases the best of UK creativity, supporting our work in English and education through music, theatre, literature and dance in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and European Union. Shakespeare Lives celebrations included Propeller Theatre’s Pocket Dream presented in Algiers and Oran. Shakespeare was guest of honour at the Oran Arab Film Festival which included 3 UK films and workshops which then travelled to the Annaba Mediterranean Film Festival. Shakespeare was celebrated at the Algiers International Book Festival where we launched Ahlem Mosteghenami’s essay ‘When Shakespeare thought I was Cleopatra’ and invited Dr Islam Issa to attend the EU Writers’ workshop. Recently we supported the 7th Algiers Film festival inviting Dave Calhoun film editor and critic to present Ken Loach’s new film “I, Daniel Blake” which was very well-received. We will be participating in the EU Festival in May and will provide more information about that event soon.
Our work in the Young Arab Voices (YAV) debating project, has engaged hundreds of young people in over 20 debating clubs across Algeria. YAV is now in universities where it sustains and complements our work in English and employability. Three out of the eleven YAV finalists invited to the UK for the Grand Final were from Algeria which was excellent. The National Debating Competition was held at the end of March and I was very impressed with the standard of debate and the communication skills of all participants.
Over 60 Algerian leaders and influencers have participated so far in The Hammamet Conference, the annual UK-North Africa leadership forum held in Tunisia. In November 10 Algerian delegates took part in the conference with the theme “Vision of a Better Future”, sharing their insights, knowledge and passion for change with their counterparts from Libya, Tunisia, Morocco , Egypt and UK. A very inspiring experience for me, soon after arriving here.
Algeria is an incredibly rich and diverse country and there are many opportunities for us to develop our services in cooperation with different communities, and always in line with our equality, diversity and inclusion policies. The UK is also a prosperous and culturally diverse country and our aim at British Council is to greatly increase the friendly knowledge and understanding between people in our two countries in order to build sustainable relationships based on trust, respect and appreciation.
Finally thank you to everyone who has supported British Council over the years, and I look forward to meeting many of you! Once again, my very best wishes for a prosperous Spring and Summer. And with just a few weeks to go until the Holy Month of Ramadan I also wish a peaceful and blessed Ramadan to all!
Director, British Council Algeria