Thursday, 24 April 2008

The British Council and the Tools for Intercultural Dialogue

The main important thing to have a dialog is to have the tools to do the dialogue: the language! We can communicate through sign language, or through body language as long as both party understand the symbol of the intended meaning. So, the most important aspect before one can start intercultural dialogue is to understand the other party’s language. English is now widely known as the international language to bridge the communication of people all around the world.

Since the independence of the Republic of Indonesia, the British Council has been always involved in assisting the Indonesian government to train Indonesian teachers of English. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the British Council using the financial fund from Overseas Development Agency started the development of distance learning material. It was developed after they realized that 60% of scholarship offered to civil servants could not be taken up. In their quarterly newsletter published in April –June 2007, there was an article titled “British Council and English Language Teaching (ELT) in Indonesia: a Never Ending Story”. It described the ELT Project Units that involved Lembaga Administrasi Negara (LAN), the civil service’s man training organization that was run from 1987 to 1994. It was then continued by ECSCS (English Communication Skills Civil Service) Project. In these projects the British Council assisted as many as 21 Universities and 20 government institutions.

That would be a long record to note down the support given by the British Council to the variety of ELT activities in Indonesia. The British Council had put their concern to educate people to be able to communicate with other cultures. After gaining the fruit of its effort, they are now focusing in training more trainers and teachers of English.

The interest to learn English language has been growing high and the age to start learning this language is becoming younger and younger…The economic problem is one obstacle in providing the English course for children; there are a lot of families who can’t really support their children’s need to take extra course outside their school’s fee. Ika Damayanti, an English teacher shared her story on how she founded Rumah Belajar Pelangi (the Rainbow Learning House), a learning community basically started from volunteer’s spirits.

Other story was from Toto Purwanto, the Project Manager for Basic Education Program in Bintuni Bay, West Papua. He came to the forest to seek for students! Yes…students! The project was run technically by the British Council using the fund from BP Berau Ltd. They were working on the scheme of Corporate Social Responsibility. A contributor in Wikimu.com had also uploading concerns about education in Papua. It is a reality that there is a high need of teachers in the rural area far away from the big city. Even in the metropolitan city like Jakarta, the quality of teachers is not really convincing. Education becomes more and more expensive for the middle to low class of the society.

So the new strategy to work with national and international companies in Indonesia through the Corporate Social Responsibility activities can also be a good foundation to develop the ability to have the intercultural dialogue!

5 comments:

Bill Chapman said...

I wish you and the British Council well, but I think you are exaggerating the importance of English. Take a look at a planned international language, Esperanto. It's relatively easy to learn. A good starting point is www.esperanto.net

Retty N. Hakim said...

Thank you for sharing your thought! I'm focusing with the British Council here as I was recently invited to their British Council Blogger Day. Personally I was connected to the British Council only through its library. My study was supported by books from the British Council's library, the American Culture's library, and the CCF's library (French Cultural Center).

Indonesian youth nowadays are taking English and Chinese languages as their second languages (implied only to those sudy in private schools). Yet, as the world become more and more global, there are always certain people learning other languages like Korean and Japanese. The existance of cultural centers are always the best tools to learn about other cultures.

I'm going to write something more on intercultural dialogue, and languages (as it is the International Year of Languages). Hope we can exchange ideas. I think blog is another way of presenting the intercultural dialogue. It's a pleasure to know more about Esperanto!

Claire said...

I wonder if deaf people from different countries learn each other's sign language.

Retty N. Hakim said...

Indonesian sign language is different. Once we do have sign language in the television, but it was stopped...
I am also curious about this, I'll find out...
My son tried Braille, it's amazing hoe quick a kid learning new things...

Brian Barker said...

In reply another good way to study the Esperanto is through an on-line course.
Can I suggest http://www.lernu.net