It’s been 75 years since the arrival in Mexico of the British Council, a quasi-autonomous non-governmental organization that promotes a wider knowledge of the United Kingdom and the English language, while encouraging cultural, scientific, technological and educational understanding and co-operation.
In part sponsored by the U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the British Council offers a variety of academic services, including English lessons, exam services and opportunities to obtain scholarships and to study in the United Kingdom. And over the years, the British Council has been a tireless overseas promoter of the UK’s diverse culture, creativity and innovation.
While the British Council began in 1934, the operation in Mexico dates back to 1943 when Mr. K.G. Wilson flew in from England to take up the direction of the Anglo-Mexico Institute in Mexico City. An exhibition by sculptor Henry Moore was a cultural highlight in the 1950s, and in the following decade the inauguration of a new office building was given a boost with a performance by the London-based Old Vic Theater Company featuring Vivian Leigh (of “Gone with the Wind” and “Streetcar Named Desire” fame). English poet Stephen Spender was on hand to deliver the new location’s baptismal public lecture.
Another branch opened in the capital in 1965 to accommodate increasing demand for English-language proficiency. Among the illustrious visitors during this period were British composer Benjamin Britten and the Duke of Edinburgh, the latter on hand to present the Mexican government with a sculpture by Moore.
These days, the organization’s purview is considerably wider than at the time of its founding, including, among other things, aid to national and state departments of education in Mexico in the development of English-language programs for the promotion of Spanish-English bilingualism.
The British Council works in more than 100 countries and has annual revenue of just under one billion pounds. While similar to its European counterparts, the Goethe Institute (Germany) and Alliance Francaise (France), the British Council relies less on government subsidies.
About 85 percent of the British Council’s turnover worldwide is earned through teaching and exams, tendered contacts and partnerships, with the rest coming from U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office grants. To learn more about the organization, go to britishcouncil.org.