#IATEFL2015 | Iran | Interview with Danny Whitehead

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Left: Nik Peachey Right: Danny Whitehead (Country Director Iran)

Note: This is not a presentation summary and the ‘Main Point’ section is my own introduction to Danny’s interview.


Iran and the Iranians at the IATEFL 2015 Manchester.

Main Point:

There is a very large and amazingly active ELT community in Iran but political issues over the last couple of years have made this ELT society quite isolated. British Council and many other international ELT organisations were forced to leave Iran for various reasons between 2008 and 2010.

Despite the fact that the Iranian ELT society and market were completely disconnected from the outside ELT world, phenomenal projects were conducted and Iranian ELT practitioners and experts were even more enthusiastic about showing how they are moving on with the international and modern ELT trends.

Having been a member of the Iranian ELT society for the last 16 years, I haven’t seen any differences in the quality of work delivered in Iran by ELT teachers and teacher educators from what is internationally perceived as quality and standard ELT service. To me, the Iranian ELT society is ready to share with teachers all around the world, what they have learnt from the challenges they experienced in years of isolation.

Taking a look at the IATEFL this year, the following Iranian people and presentations can be seen. However, only one is directly from an organisation related to Iran and about Iran:

  • Danny Whitehead (British Council Iran- Country Director)
    • Talk on “Innovations in ELT in Iran” (with Chris Kennedy from the University of Birmingham)
    • A new British Council publication: A unique collection of articles (ELT in Iran)
  • Mohammadreza Soofinajafi (British Council Malaysia)
    • Originally Iranian and the former Head of Education in Kish Language School with over 25 years experience in the Iranian and international ELT societies, he currently works as a teacher trainer with the British Council in Malaysia.
    • Talk on “British Council’s Pro-ELT programme: blended learning, Multiple Intelligences, a breakthrough
  • Saeede Haghi (University of Warwick)
    • Originally Iranian and once holding the first rank in the Iranian English Language Teaching MA programmes Entrance Examination, she is now the winner of the Trinity College London Language Examinations Scholarship to the IATELF Manchester from the University of Warwick.
    • Talk on “The role of visual stimuli in EAP listening tests

Now, in 2015, Danny Whitehead, in an interview, talks about the Iranian ELT innovations and the future of the British Council in Iran.

Summary (of the interview):

  • Danny is not (yet) based in Iran and works from the London Office.
  • The relationship between Iran and the UK has improved dramatically over the last 18 months.
  • They are working very closely with their partners in Iran and the UK to re-establish their presence in Iran (in the near future).
  • There is a great demand to learn/teach English in Iran and the ELT community is massive!
  • There is also a great talent in Iran and the teachers and teacher trainers we work with in Iran are wonderfully skilled.
  • A real innovation is happening in ELT in Iran and the new coursebooks from the Ministry of Education shows this.
  • Recent material developments in Iran show a link between the international nature of English and the traditions in the Iranian context.
  • Langauge is a key area where we can build a mutual understanding between Iran and the UK. Challenges around teaching Persian in the UK are a part of this programme as well.
  • The UK-Iran Season of Culture has been helping to build this understanding in the last 4 months.
  • The book ‘ELT in Iran’ is available to download. (Link below)
  • Danny Whitehead: “We really want to connect this amazing network of English language teachers we have in Iran with teachers around the world.”

Useful Links:

Need more? Check British Council Iran homepage.


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