Tuesday 22 July 2014


A new British Council survey of school children across the Commonwealth has found that UK children are falling behind their peers around the world in a modern understanding and appreciation of the Commonwealth.

With the Commonwealth Games beginning tomorrow in Glasgow, just over half (57%) of UK 7-14 year olds surveyed in June said they knew what the Commonwealth was, compared to more than three quarters of (78%) school children in other Commonwealth countries.

When asked what the Commonwealth meant to them, the most common response (33%) was ‘Former British Empire’. In contrast, for non-UK Commonwealth children, ‘Shared Language, Culture and History’ was the most popular answer (24%).

93 per cent of non-UK Commonwealth children surveyed said they were proud to be a member of the Commonwealth, whereas only 61 per cent of UK children felt the same way. Less than half (45%) of UK children said they would be watching the Commonwealth Games, compared to 82 per cent of children from other Commonwealth countries.

Julia Amour, British Council UK Regional Director, said “A third of the world’s population live in Commonwealth countries, and it’s clear that many of the Commonwealth’s next generation feel that it still plays an important role in forging cultural understanding and building trust between people around the world. However, it’s alarming that twice as many children in the UK compared to the rest of the Commonwealth see the network as the former British Empire, considering they were born in a different century to the Empire. We need our children to see the world as it is, not just as it was”.

The survey was conducted by the British Council, which has been working in partnership with the BBC and the Commonwealth Secretariat to deliver an international schools project ‘Commonwealth Class’ in the run up to the Games, designed to use the action in Glasgow to connect young people around the Commonwealth and to inspire a greater understanding of Commonwealth values. Over 1100 school children from 19 of the Commonwealth 53 countries took the online survey.

Twice as many respondents from around the Commonwealth said that learning about the Commonwealth had improved their understanding of global issues – 70 per cent, compared to just 32 per cent in the UK.

Julia Amour added: “It is essential for the UK’s future global competitiveness that our young people are highly internationally aware and willing to engage with other cultures – this survey suggests our school children are lagging behind the rest of the world in fostering an international outlook. The Commonwealth Games has a vital role to play in inspiring young people not just to embrace sport, but also embrace the world. The UK has to seize the opportunity over the next two weeks and ensure there is a strong social, as well as sporting legacy from Glasgow.”

From a sporting perspective, both children from the UK and the rest of the Commonwealth were very positive about the inclusion of disabled athletes within the Games. Almost two thirds (64%) of UK respondents, and four fifths (79%) of Commonwealth respondents felt that other sporting events should follow the Commonwealth Games’ example.

Notes to Editor

In June 2014 the British Council promoted an online survey to schools. 

We received 1157 completed surveys from children aged 7-14. 357 from children in the UK, and 800 from children across the rest of the Commonwealth. 45 per cent of respondents had taken part in educational activities relating to Commonwealth Class.

Interviews with British Council staff in London or Edinburgh are available.

For more information and a breakdown of the survey results, please contact

Kristen McNicoll 0207 389 4967 kristen.mcnicoll@britishcouncil.org

About Commonwealth Class

Commonwealth Class is a special initiative from the BBC, British Council and Commonwealth Secretariat. The initiative offers free access to teaching resources, classroom activities, online debates and competitions to mark the run-up to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

It aims to energise young people’s learning by bringing together schools and children from across the Commonwealth to learn how to make the most of their place in the Commonwealth and wider world. It celebrates the values of the Commonwealth and connects its schools and young people to learn together about how to be active, responsible global citizens, with the aim of giving young people a unique and hands-on international learning experience of the Commonwealth family.

Over 70,000 schools around the Commonwealth have been reached by Commonwealth Class activities. 

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. 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 7000 staff – including 2000 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 publically-funded grant provides less than 25 per cent of our turnover which last year was £781m. 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.

For more information, please visit: www.britishcouncil.org