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Working across Cultures – Issues in Managing a
Teacher's Association

by Alan S. Mackenzie, Senior Training Consultant,
British Council India & Sri Lanka & Amol Padwad,
President ELTAI
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Background
English Language Teaching Association of India has been running for the past 40 years. It has shown particularly strong growth in the past ten years in terms of increased membership, launch of several new branches across India and high attendance at its annual conferences. It applied for and won funding from the IATEFL-Hornby Trust Teacher Association (TA) Development Funds Scheme to undertake a "Chapter Leadership Development Project" last year. The project aimed at providing online leadership program and management skills to the (largely novice) chapter leaders, identifying ways of networking and mutual support among them and initiating mechanism and practices for leadership development and continuity. As a part of the project, two leadership development training workshops were conducted in Delhi and Chennai by George Pickering, a renowned consultant and trainer from the UK. The project was supported by the British Council India, with the active participation of and inputs from some of its staff.

Issues
Among the organisational and management issues addressed in the workshops were issues like marketing, membership, communication, fund-raising, leadership succession, etc. Comparing the inputs and training by the UK trainer and the BC participants with the responses, comments and observations of the Indian (i.e. ELTAI) participants, it appeared that there were two culturally different undercurrents.
One represented the 'western' or the 'UK' perspective on these issues, while the other represented the Indian perspective, though it is certainly premature to make such a 'national' generalisation. This comparison hinted at the different ways the 'two sides' looked at TAs and various aspects of managing TAs. This warranted further investigation.

What is Culture?
A culture is what you have in common with others in a group and how these qualities interact. Each of these qualities (see Figure 1) can be seen as cultural plates or bubbles that change in level of influence over time depending on various contextual issues and the response of the individual themselves. Individuals coming together in similar contexts tend to have similar cultural identities. Geographic location is one important influence but organisations spread across geographic locations can also build and maintain their own internal cultures.

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