As part of the India/UK Together, a Season of Culture, the British Council commissioned Cambridge Partnership for Education to conduct this research. It determined the extent to which the other country is represented and what form this representation takes, particularly in relation to diversity and contemporary life in the English subject curricula.

Cambridge Partnership for Education works with ministries of education and international development organisations to improve the quality of education systems – so everyone has the skills they need to achieve their goals and find their place in the society.



Guiding questions

The following are the guiding questions that have informed the methodology and analysis of the collected data: 

  • What are some current examples of representations of culture from either India or the UK in either country’s English curricula?  
  • Where are there representations of culture? (i.e., national or state documents, curriculum or textbooks, primary or secondary education)  
  • What kind of representations are included? (e.g., what products, what practices, what persons, what perspectives) 
  • What is the diversity of representations of culture? (e.g., are there common stereotypes, are representations historical or contemporary) 
  • What opportunities exist for promoting representations of culture through English curricula design process? 



A comparative multimethod study was undertaken incorporating content analysis and thematic analysis of curriculum documents and textbooks, along with a survey of teachers in India. The content analysis and the survey were underpinned by the same theoretical framework, and therefore shared strong commonalities, thus enabling triangulation between the data collected via the survey and the analysis of textbooks.  

Content analysis  

Analysts read all documents in the sample and identified where they were able to identify a valid representation. To be included, the material had to mention or depict culture obviously connected to the country of analysis (i.e. an obvious connection to the UK in Indian documents and vice versa). For instance, this could include a person with traits that signified their origin, or materials originating from, or unique to, their origin. 

Using Yuen’s (2011) approach, the content analysis focused on identifying representations of the following cultural aspects:

  • Products (e.g. elements related to tangible objects)
  • Practices (e.g. daily patterns of life)
  • Perspectives (e.g. superstitions, myths, rituals)
  • Persons (e.g. real people) 

Thematic analysis  

The analysts became familiar with the data from involvement in the content analysis. The data was thematically analysed to consider how the representations portray culture. The data was scrutinised for patterns (using the key words and further reading of the data). Similar data were gathered together into themes, often encompassing several keywords or other codes. Themes were validated through discussion between the analysts and confirmation through literature. The thematic analysis was qualitative, and the patterns mentioned were impressionistic, informed by expert opinion.  

Additional data

UK primary reading books

Cambridge engaged an expert in primary school reading lists in the UK to providing a summary of the sorts of books available to young learners in which there are representations of India.


The findings from a teacher survey were used to triangulate the findings from the cross-jurisdiction analysis.

Key findings

  • This research found no statutory guidance in the use of cross-cultural representations.
  • Across all jurisdictions, Products accounted for at least half of the identified representations.
  • After Products, Persons are the next most highly represented cultural aspect. The bulk of the Persons represented are adults, of which the majority are authors. 
  • The concentration of Practices is low for all jurisdictions except Delhi. 
  • Perspectives were consistently the least represented.
  • The majority (61%) of identified representations were from pre-1947 sources (i.e. Historical and pre-1858).
  • Cultural representations were most frequently identified in prose text (41%).

Key recommendations

The recommendations from this review can be organised into three areas:

  • curriculum development
  • cultural aspects identified in the analysis of the textbooks
  • next steps for exploring this area of research further.

Cambridge recommends that if the aim of the British Council is to promote improvements in representation in Indian and the UK through curriculum developments, efforts should be focused on Scotland and India.

In terms of cultural aspects identified in the analysis, overall Cambridge recommends:

  • promoting a greater balance of representations across the eras.
  • promoting a greater balance in the choice of themes.
  • providing guidance for teachers on supporting learners to critically analyse the use of representations in texts. 

In terms of the individual cultural aspects, Cambridge recommends:

  • encouraging textbook authors to improve the diversity of Persons represented.
  • encouraging the provision of guidance on incorporating representations of Perspectives into teaching and learning materials.
  • encouraging an increase in the number of representations of Practices.
  • encouraging an increase in the number, and provide a greater variety, of representations of Products.

There are areas of additional research that could build upon this analysis and add further facets to enrich the findings and recommendations. This could include:

  • an expansion of this analysis to include other curriculum grades and/or jurisdictions
  • an expansion of this analysis to include textbooks from other subjects
  • a survey of British learners to explore how widely read the British literary references, identified in the Indian textbooks, are in the UK
  • further research could be undertaken to investigate how often, and in what way, other countries are represented in England’s textbooks.
  • using the findings from this analysis and applying a different lens to explore how that impacts on a reader’s engagement with, and interpretation of, the identified representations. This could be an economic lens, a geographical lens, a gendered lens, etc.
  • research into the impact the status of English language has on the inclusion of representations by policy makers and textbook developers, and the interpretation of those representations by readers (both teachers and learners) in Indian contexts
  • research into the prevalence of these considerations around cultural representations in initial teacher training and in-service teacher professional development. 


The report can be downloaded from the link below.

An analysis of cultural representations of India and the UK in English subject curricula