Perhaps the most unusual trip I did for the British Council in my first year of work was the tour with the TV company. It helped me to learn a lot about British aid programmes at the time, most notably the English training programme. There were over half a dozen trainers in residence at the time, four junior ones stationed at four teacher training colleges, and four senior ones in Colombo. Three of these in effect ran important aspects of English for the Ministry, namely curriculum development and teacher training and materials development.
The fourth was meant to work in Higher Education, but soon after I joined the Deputy Representative, John Keleher, discovered that the Ministry of Higher Education was also working with the Americans. It seemed that two parallel programmes were going on, the American one run by a wonderful eccentric called Robert Baumgartner. The British gradually withdrew then from University English work, which became more and more theoretical, with funding going largely to facilitate the English Language Teaching Units to publish learned papers which were of little use to their students.
Baumgartner himself was a spectacular if largely impractical showman, and he later organized a massive Conference in Islamabad for which the British Council in Sri Lanka sponsored several participants. I was amongst them, and had a fantastic time exploring Pakistan before and after. It was December, and freezing cold in the Northern Regions, but I managed to get a bus up to Gilgit along the Karakoram Highway, and then later stayed in the palace of the Wali of Swat, an area now in total confusion I gather, after the Americans decided to arm the fundamentalists so as to defeat Communism in Afghanistan. Continue reading