Memorandum submitted by The British Council
THE BRITISH COUNCIL IN THE COUNTRIES OF THE
TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
1. The first British Council operations
in the Transcaucasus and Central Asia were established in 1994.
Since then much has been achieved through the careful targeting
of programmes and by ensuring that all activities complement and
support other UK initiatives. However, no significant additional
resources have been provided for the expansion that has taken
place over the past five years. This expansion has only been possible
by diverting funds from well-established, neighbouring directorates
and the wider Europe, and by maximising the funding obtained from
other UK and international sources. Current resources are severely
limited, and restrict the Council's capacity to respond to major
new opportunities, notably the need to increase access to quality
English language learning, to contribute to the reform process
and to promote the UK's role as a provider of education and training
services throughout the region.
2. The Council has three directorates in
the Transcaucasus and Central Asia: these are in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan
and Uzbekistan. There is also a British Council Information and
Resource Centre in Georgia, and the organisation manages a limited
number of programmes in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan
where it has no permanent presence.
3. Each Council directorate works closely
with the British Embassy, UK government departments, other British
agencies and companies, and international charitable foundations
to promote cultural relations throughout the region. The Council's
operations support the work of the FCO and British interests in
the region by: encouraging progress towards democratic and economic
reform; increasing knowledge of and respect for international
standards of human rights; and raising knowledge and awareness
of the UK and the English language, thus creating a better environment
for the growth of British business.
4. The Council achieves its objectives through
a series of targeted programmes which:
promote wider and more effective
learning of the English language;
demonstrate that the UK is a committed
partner in tackling key economic and democratic reform agendas;
raise awareness of the UK's creativity,
cultural diversity and recent achievements; and
promote the UK's role as a leading
provider of educational opportunity.
5. Council operations in the Transcaucasus
and Central Asia have a total budget of £1.5 million in 1998-99,
£0.88 million of which comes from the Council's grant-in-aid.
This represents approximately only 0.7 per cent of the global
grant-in-aid (currently £127.3 million).
6. At the time of the collapse of the Soviet
Union, the Council had only a main directorate in Moscow and a
regional directorate in St Petersburg, with very limited activity
taking place elsewhere in the region. Shortly afterwards, operations
began to expand, with English language teaching projects being
set up in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. These
were managed by specialist advisers based within universities
or the British Embassy, and funded by the host country's Ministry
of Education or the British Council's directorate in Russia.
7. In 1994, an English language teaching
centre was established in Azerbaijan with funding from British
Petroleum (now BP Amoco) and support from the British Council
in Turkey. It developed into a full, independent directorate in
1998. Likewise, directorates were established in Kazakhstan and
Uzbekistan in 1996, together with an Information and Resource
centre in Georgia. All three directorates are led by a UK-appointed
Director; programmes in Georgia are managed by a locally-appointed
8. This expansion of operations was funded
from existing budgets in established, neighbouring directorates,
notably Russia and Turkey, and the wider Europe. No additional
funds were given to the Council for investment in the Transcaucasus
and Central Asia by the FCO, in the form of a non-recurrent grant
contribution to the British Council (such as those made available
in 1990 to establish high-profile English language teaching programmes
in Central Europe). However, there will be a small enhancement
of £70,000 in the operational budgets for Azerbaijan and
Kazakhstan in 1999-2000, reflecting the increased priority placed
on the region in the 1998 Comprehensive Spending Review. This
will be re-deployed from existing budgets in Central and Eastern
See Annexes for further information on a
country by country basis.
9. The majority of Council operations in
this region began through involvement in the design and management
of English language teaching reform programmes, focusing mainly
on the development of new curricula, assessment procedures and
materials at secondary and tertiary levels of state education.
Such programmes are still a priority for all directorates, as
they are considered to be essential for improving the quality
of and access to English language learning. In turn, this promotes
English as the main language of international communication and
commerce in the region, thus linking it to the wider world. In
addition, new textbooks and teaching materials developed under
these programmes play a key role in changing young people's perceptions
and knowledge of the UK: in this respect, the Council has been
working with the BBC on developing and promoting ELT textbooks
and related televisual materials.
10. The Council has a well-established teaching
centre in Baku, which forms the core of its directorate in Azerbaijan.
It is staffed by qualified, British teachers of English and provides
teaching services for individuals and corporate clients, including
large international oil and gas consortia, throughout the region.
BP Amoco provided financial support and facilities for the establishment
of a teaching centre in Baku in 1994. Although the centre has
since been developed as an independent directorate in new premises,
BP Amoco is still an important client and partner, which, as well
as funding training for its own staff, sponsors English language
courses for community and national associations, such as the Azerbaijan
11. The Council also supports key initiatives
focusing on the professional development of English language teachers
throughout the region. Through its English Teachers Contacts Scheme
(ELTECS), conferences have been held in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan
over the past six months, to both encourage networking and the
establishment of professional associations for English language
teaching specialists. These events have helped over 100 teachers
and teacher trainers to develop their knowledge of current methodology
and materials. ELTECS also provides opportunities for teachers
and other English language specialists to study at specialist
summer schools in the UK.
12. The Council is involved in the development
of regional English language teaching programmes for military
personnel, funded by the MoD's Peacekeeping English programme
(ASSIST). A UK-appointed consultant has been based at the British
Embassy in Turkmenistan for the past year, and he will continue
to run workshops and language courses for military personnel through
1999-2000. Likewise, an English language teaching adviser has
been appointed to establish similar programmes in Armenia, Azerbaijan
and Georgia from May 1999 onwards, based in Tblisi; and a two-week
workshop for representatives from military training institutions
has recently been held in Kazakhstan.
ELT PROGRAMMES IN
A twelve-month contract was signed in August
1998 for the provision of English language teaching to employees
of the Karachaganak Operating Structure, a joint venture company
with British Gas and AGIP being the leading partners. The project
is to train approximately 700 Kazakh employees, ranging from supervisor
to senior management, at the gas field in Aksai, North West Kazakhstan.
The project also includes the establishment of a self-access learning
and resource centre. There are four UK qualified and trained teachers
at the site.
A grant-funded project has been set up in partnership
with the Ministry of Education to focus on the development of
teacher training programmes, using the expertise of UK-based specialists
and teachers from the teaching centre in Baku. These programmes
include refugee teacher training and trainers have been sent out
to the refugee areas of Mingechevir and Ganja. In addition, the
Council has facilitated the establishment of the Azerbaijan Teachers'
Association and has helped them to stock a resource centre in
Baku, which serves the whole country.
13. The Council has played a key role in
the management of projects funded by bilateral and multilateral
donor agencies, which focus on economic and democratic reform.
These projects have predominantly been funded by the British Government's
Know How Fund, the World Bank and the European Commission's TACIS
programme. In each case, the Council has been appointed to manage
the projects on a competitive tender basis, and is responsible
for identifying key UK and other European Union partner organisations
and specialists for implementation. Overall, the Council's involvement
in this activity leads to the wider use of British expertise in
the reform process throughout the region. The contract value of
these projects in 1998-99 currently stands at over £4 million.
14. Countries in the Transcaucasus and Central
Asia have participated in regional economic reform programmes
funded by the Know How Fund and managed throughout the Former
Soviet Union by the British Council. These programmes have included
the Chancellor's Financial Sector Scheme (CFSS), which enabled
91 young professionals from all countries in the region (with
the exception of Tajikistan) to gain practical experience of working
in the financial sector of a free-market economy through short-term
placements with leading firms in the UK's financial and business
sectors. Another regional programme of this type is the Joint
Industrial and Commercial Attachments Programme (JICAP) which
has enabled a further 90 middle and senior managers from the region
to work with their UK counterparts in the public and private sector.
Whilst CFSS has come to an end, the Department for International
Development (the government department responsible for the Know
How Fund) is considering extending JICAP.
15. The Council also manages the Know How
Fund's Regional Academic Partnerships (REAP) programme throughout
the Former Soviet Union. This programme funds links between higher
education institutions in the UK and the region to support the
development of courses that will provide, in the medium-term,
the human capital in key sectors to support economic reform and
transition. Currently, there are 19 such links in the countries
of the Transcaucasus and Central Asia, which focus on sectors
such as: land and water resource management (Kazakhstan); journalism
and the role of the press (Kyrgyzstan); and primary healthcare
reform (Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan).
16. In 1998, the Council launched a programme
on behalf of the John Smith Memorial Trust, which also received
funding from the FCO and DFID. This initiative was developed to
raise awareness of good governance issues amongst aspiring young
leaders from specific countries in the Former Soviet Union and
Commonwealth, and to inspire them to stimulate change in the sectors
in which they are currently working. There were five participants
from the region (from Armenia, Georgia and Kazakhstan), and they
followed a 12 week programme in the UK which included meetings
with leading politicians and public servants, a tailored lecture
series and short-term placements in UK government departments
and other relevant organisations.
17. Young professionals from the region
have also participated in the British Council's European Networking
Programme. This is a series of high level, multi-lateral conferences
and seminars which bring together international specialists and
future leaders to address issues of major importance to the wider
Europe. There were seven participants from Armenia, Azerbaijan,
Georgia and Uzbekistan at the Antalya Conference held in November
1998; this event focused on the relationship between Europe and
Turkey, and in particular, Turkey's relationship with the Transcaucasus
and Central Asia.
A grant-funded programme has been established
in two of the main silk-growing regions. This has aimed to provide
the exchange of expertise between local craftspeople and UK designers,
in order to encourage the development of small- and medium-sized
enterprises. The programme has been sponsored by Marks and Spencer,
and has resulted in the establishment of a business incubator
centre in Fergana Valley.
The Council organised a training event for parliamentary
journalists in September 1998, with funding from the FCO's Human
Rights Project Fund. The aim of this event was to promote professional,
impartial reporting practices, and trainers were identified by
the UK partner, the Thomson Foundation. The project was opened
by the Speaker of Parliament and participants included the Parliamentary
Press Secretary, as well as leading journalists from the government
and private sector.
The Council managed a three year project funded
by the World Bank (£3.5 million) to support reform of social
assistance programmes, which was completed in September 1998.
The aim of the project was to develop a system to means test social
benefit, so that it is targeted to the poorest. This was done
through staff training and the development of an effective social
policy function within the Ministry of Social Affairs.
18. The long-term geographical and political
isolation of all countries in the Transcaucasus and Central Asia
has meant that there is generally limited knowledge of the UK.
The Council aims to raise awareness of British culture, society
and governance through the provision of materials within the information
centres established in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan,
and through providing public access to selected Internet and CD-ROM
services at these centres.
19. The Council is developing its arts and
cultural programmes in the region on a limited scale, predominantly
where it has a permanent presence. These programmes are designed
to feature the work of high-quality British artists, designers
and performers and to encourage partnership with local artists.
Particular focus is placed on highlighting the cultural diversity
of the UK, and in reflecting the major interest in countries throughout
the region in re-affirming their national identify and cultural
20. Arts programmes have been arranged as
part of British Weeks in Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan
and Uzbekistan. These events have been co-ordinated by the British
Embassy, in close association with the Council and the Department
of Trade and Industry and provide a showcase for British companies
working in the region. In 1999, a major British Week event is
planned for Azerbaijan.
21. In addition, the Council's Visiting
Arts Department has developed a joint initiative with the Open
Society Fund (Soros Foundation) focusing on reform of the cultural
industries in the Transcaucasus. A training event was held in
the UK in November 1998 for 11 arts managers from Armenia, Azerbaijan
and Georgia. The participants had work placements with leading
UK arts/production centres for one month, thus providing them
with an insight into the cultural industries in the UK and enabling
the participants to contribute to the reform and development of
the cultural industries in their own countries.
22. There are plans to increase knowledge
and awareness of countries in Central Asia within the UK by establishing
school links using computer technology, and through head-teacher
study visits. The Council's Central Bureau for Educational Visits
and Exchanges (CBEVE) is currently negotiating with the Aga Khan
Foundation to establish joint programmes of this type, with the
participation of schools in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan,
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
In 1998, the Council designed and launched a
major exhibition on "The Wardrops", a British family
who did much to promote cultural relations between Georgia and
the UK in the late 19th and early 20th century, through translations
of Georgian poetry and literature and the promotion of Georgian
music. The exhibition was shown in three major cities in Georgia
and attracted funding from the FCO, as well as commercial sponsors.
A Scottish Festival was held between September
and December 1998, which included concerts, performance workshops,
a design exhibition, book exhibitions and an exhibition on the
Scottish Crown Jewels. These events were attended by over 15,000
people and attracted sponsorship from a number of UK companies,
including British Airways, British Gas and BP Amoco. A "Multicultural
Britain" festival is planned for 1999, which will include
concerts given by British musicians, a performance by Kazakh,
Kyrgyz and UK story-tellers, and a film festival.
UK AS A
23. Increasingly, the Council is also building
the UK's role as a leading provider of education and training
for individuals, companies and relevant government departments
throughout the region. It does this through the provision of information
about and access to the UK education and training sector.
24. In Uzbekistan, the Council is managing
a major scholarships programme on behalf of the prestigious President's
Scheme (UMID). This provides scholarships for young Uzbeks to
study in the UK, the USA and Japan, in order to equip them with
the knowledge and skills required to contribute to the economic
and democratic reform process in Uzbekistan. In the 1998-99 academic
year, there are 110 Uzbek undergraduates and postgraduates studying
at British universities under this programme and it is anticipated
that this number will grow in the coming academic year.
25. There is also considerable growth in
the market for British examinations throughout the Transcaucasus
and Central Asia, which the Council administers. Predominantly,
the market is for English language examinations, but there is
also increasing interest in professional examinations, such as
those offered by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
26. Finally, there is an increase in the
number of students from the region who are making self-funded
visits to study at English language schools within the UK. The
Council's centres in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Kazakhstan are planning
to establish pilot placement schemes for these students in the
coming year and it is anticipated that there would be a market
for similar services in other countries in the region.
PROMOTING UK EDUCATION
Growth in the financial services sector in Armenia
has resulted in increased demand for access to international,
professional qualifications. The Council administers examinations
offered by the UK's Association of Chartered Accountants, and
110 candidates from Armenia took these examinations in 1998-99.
The Council is organising an exhibition on British
Education and Training in Baku as part of the British Week Trade
Fair in October 1999. This will be targeted at the major international
oil and gas companies based in the Caspian region.
27. The Council's operations in the Transcaucasus
and Central Asia have expanded rapidly over the past five years
in support of UK interests, particularly in the areas of English
language teaching, economic and democratic reform, and in raising
awareness of the UK's creativity, cultural diversity and recent
achievements. Over the past two years, the Council has also played
an increasing role in promoting the UK as a leading provider of
education and training.
28. Its programmes have made considerable
impact for the UK, largely through careful targeting, and by ensuring
that they are focused and complementary to those offered by the
FCO through its Missions, government departments and other UK
agencies. In addition, each directorate in the region has been
successful in establishing effective working partnerships with
other bilateral and multilateral agencies, thus attracting funding
from a variety of different sources.
29. However, lack of resources is currently
limiting the Council's capacity both to establish a permanent
presence in all countries in the region and to respond adequately
to new opportunities, specifically in the following areas:
increasing access to and quality
of English language teaching throughout the Transcaucasus and
assisting the economic and democratic
increasing promotion and access to
UK education and training at a time when there is strong interest
from governments and international businesses operating in the
building knowledge of and changing
perceptions of the UK.