Thursday 05 March 2015

School children across the UK will be able to get a fresh insight into Persian culture thanks to a new education pack launched today by the British Council.

To mark the global celebrations of Nowruz, the traditional Persian New Year, the British Council has produced new resources to help UK primary school teachers in cultural and social education around ‘Nowruz’ – the secular New Year festival which is celebrated across large parts of the world, from China to North Africa.

In the UK several million people celebrate Nowruz each year. Nowruz is celebrated by more than 300 million people world-wide, and officially marked in 17 countries across the Middle East and Asia.

The education pack is available as a free download from the British Council’s SchoolsOnline site.

Danny Whitehead, the British Council’s Country Director Iran, said “This education pack brings the richness of the Persian world and its cultures to life in the classroom. We're delighted to support schools and teachers build understanding of different cultures among UK children, particularly of a part of the world around which there is much misunderstanding. I hope this resource can support our teachers in preparing the internationally minded and globally conscious citizens of the world that the UK needs in the 21st century.”

The resources include assembly and lesson plans, and activity sheets to allow British children to gain an insight in to the traditional and modern day celebrations. Links to Iranian music are included, and letters from children in Afghanistan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, the UK, and Uzbekistan explaining how they celebrate Nowruz in their home country.

Nowruz or ‘New day’ in Persian is a thirteen day New Year celebration which is tied to Zoroastrian and Persian traditions, dating back at least three thousand years. It begins on the first day of spring in the solar calendar, around the 21st of March, a date that marks the New Year for many and is a national holiday in a number of countries.

The new schools pack has been produced as part of the British Council’s UK-Iran Season of Culture. Between January and April 2015, the British Council has led a series of activities focusing on the cultural links between Iran and the UK.

Through nationwide exhibitions, performances, discussions, workshops, and seminars, the UK Iran Season of Culture will explore Iran’s cultural heritage and vibrant contemporary creativity, enabling the people of the UK to experience and re-interpret Iran.


Notes to Editor

UK-Iran Season

Between January and April 2015, the British Council will lead a series of activities focusing on the cultural links between Iran and the UK.

The UK Iran season will spotlight the rich and dynamic culture of modern Iran, and its ties with the UK in the areas of arts, education, and languages. It is intended to showcase existing partnerships and to provide a space and a platform for the development of new opportunities, partnerships, and collaboration for our audiences and partners. It is a core part of our goal to bring about better understanding of each other’s country, and through that understanding, to create trust.

Through nationwide exhibitions, performances, discussions, workshops, and seminars, the UK Iran Season of Culture will explore Iran’s cultural heritage and vibrant contemporary creativity, enabling the people of the UK to experience and re-interpret Iran.

Some of the key season events will be:

·         Master Builders in Qajar Tehran: The Mirza Akbar Drawings

04 Mar 19.00 – 21.00; V&A London

·         The Spirit of Nowruz Exhibition

04 Mar – 20 Apr; Spring Gardens

·         Day of Debate & Screenings: Iranian Cinema After the Revolution

21 Mar 10.30 – 18.30; Chapter, Cardiff

There are also a number of key publications including:

1)     Didgah: new perspectives on UK-Iran cultural relations. A collection of 15 authors sharing their opinion and perspectives of cultural relations between the UK and Iran.

2)     English Language Teaching in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Innovations, Trends and Challenges.

3)     Nowruz, Persian New Year Education Packs for Schools. School packs for primary school children in the UK including suggested plans for lessons and assemblies.


British Council and Iran

The British Council has worked in Iran since 1942. Although the British Council closed its office in Iran in 2009, we have continued our cultural relations work to support the aspirations of Iranian stakeholders who wish to maintain dialogue and contact with the UK.

We work in Iran in partnership with UK and Iranian partners. We also work with many of our partners such as teachers or educational institutions in English language through cascade models, and have significant reach through digital channels.

Even working remotely since 2009, in 2013/14 our work reached over 300,000 people, and we aim to reach over half a million Iranians in 2014/15.

We have provided English language teaching support to over 3,000 teachers in Iran, and have provided materials development support for the new curriculum which will reach every province of Iran.

Our arts work makes measurable change in perceptions, and we have facilitated major UK-Iran collaboration and cooperation in music, film, theatre, and architecture.

The British Council has responded to the recent improvements in the bilateral relationship by exploring new models of engagement with and in Iran, identifying opportunities for individuals and cultural relations organisations in both countries, and strengthening mutual understanding and cultural ties.


Key Iran Facts


1.     The Islamic Republic of Iran is the second most populous country in the Middle East, and it has maintained the second largest economy in the region despite recent years of sanctions. Its population is approximately 77 million.


2.     Iran is one of the most stable countries in the region, and is a top priority country for the UK in both the security and prosperity agendas. Economic growth projections are strong, subject to continued progress in other negotiations.


3.     Iran has one of the richest cultural and linguistic heritages. Standards of education are very high, and it has one of the highest rates of literacy in the region.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

We work in more than 100 countries and our 8,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes.

We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publicly-funded grant provides less than 20 per cent of our turnover which last year was £864 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally.