British Council director: A wide and growing interest to retain cultural links with Syria
Syria-UK, Culture, 3/25/2000
"The British Council has a long association with Syria dating to 1942," said the director general of the British Council, David Green.
In a statement to ArabicNews.com on the sidelines of inaugurating the new premises of the British Council recently in Damascus, Mr. Green added, "I want to emphasize the partnership agreement with the government of Syria and the presence of the Syrian minister of culture at the BC's inauguration is a manifestation for this partnership." He said that the purpose of the British council is to expand the reputation of Britain in Syria.
He noted that he met with minister of higher education and the president of Damascus University and both sides "would like to increase their links with the British Chevening Scholarship program," noting that there are 15 places in that program for Syrian postgraduates who want to study at the UK and to do three different levels of higher studies related to science, technology, etc.
He said, "We have 25 short-term scholarships for university teachers for one month training in England. We bring lecturers on particular areas of expertise in some branch of technology."
He said to get a PHD, from Britain, a person can spend six months supervised by a British lecturer, spend two years in Syria and the final six months back in England where he is awarded the doctorate.
On future expansion projects for the BC, Mr. Green said: "We are going to be using communication much more effectively, increase the number of people we reach. And we want to retain people-to-people contact." He continued that the British Council in Damascus has a number of development programs on how "we" can improve language-teaching through CD and other facilities as well as to provide learning on line.
He commented that the ultimate goal of the BC is that, "We want to embrace other cultures and to retain the roots of cultures." Mr. Green added that the British Council's main office is in Damascus and was opened in the late 1940s. In June 1997 a small office was opened in Aleppo, the main commercial city, in a joint venture with the commercial section of the British Embassy. He added that the council maintains good relations with the education, health and cultural sectors through which its promotes the English language, British education, training and the arts.
As for the English language teaching, Mr. Green said the council is the market leader in the provision of quality English language teaching and training. He said that the teaching center in Damascus offers a diversified range of courses. The center, he said, teaches English and management courses to over 5,000 students each year, and demand is growing. The majority are private fee-paying students but there is increasing demand for business English from local companies wishing to train their staff. "We are encouraging the use of English in major cities in Syria through partner organizations," Mr. Green said.
On the role played by the British Council in maintaining the academic links between Syria and Britain, Mr. Green said the British Council promotes links and collaboration programs in the field of health, science, environment, technology and economics, with co-funding from Syrian universities and the Ministry of Higher Education.
He continued, saying, "Recently we facilitated the signing of an agreement between Manchester University and the four Syrian universities and the Ministry of Higher Education for postgraduates training," noting, "We expect that up to twenty people will go to Manchester in the first year to study English, science and medicines. Agreements with other British Universities are likely to follow."
As for medical training, the British Council operates a scheme, with the General Medical Council, for Syrian doctors to go to Britain for postgraduate training. The Syrian government funds this specialist training for doctors. Syrian doctors, who must be fluent in English and who have worked as doctor for at least four years, can obtain supernumerary training posts at British National Health service hospitals. On completion of the training they return to Syria to work in government hospitals.
The British council also provides excellence in running cultural events in Syria. The most recent events have included music, drama, lecture tours by British writers and exhibitions on literature, medicine and modern architecture. The council also arranges for a British Group to participate in the annual Euro- Syrian jazz festival funded by the European Union.
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