Letter: British Council: a selective judge

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leader article of 21 May ("Wanted: a modern British patriotism") regrettably does not describe the British Council I saw in operation last year at the 1995 Beijing Conference for Women. The Council there represented a place where women overseas could go to learn who was doing what in their field in Britain.

The Council I saw was clear that its task was to bring, in this case, women together across international boundaries to share experiences for the mutual benefit of all parties, Britain included. It is a great pity that it is so hard to put a price on the social and political benefits of international learning and exchange.

The Foreign Office exists to sell Britain as politicians want others to see us. The DTI exists to promote what we produce. The British Council's work is different: it is as much about learning from others as marketing our own cultural heritage. We gain respect overseas by presenting ourselves honestly and as a country with something to learn from cultural exchange. From what I saw in China, the British Council understands that very well.

SARAH BOOTH

West Kirby, Merseyside

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