Global Issues and English language teaching
Research among 11-16 year olds indicates that over 80 per cent are interested in Global Issues and feel they should learn about them at school (MORI 1998, for the Development Education Association). Social, economic, health, and environmental concerns, all Global Issues themselves, increasingly affect our lives. Every new natural disaster that results from human activity, every new war waged, and every new globalization-related problem that condemns millions to a new dose of suffering and poverty impinges upon us.
There is increasing interest in Global Issues among the teaching community world-wide. Both of the major international English teachers associations have established sections focusing on them: the IATEFL Global Issues Special Interest Group and the TESOL Social Responsibility Caucus. Local organizations such as the Japan Association of Language Teachers have also founded Global Issues interest groups. This points to a new direction in language teaching.
The primary aim of language teaching is to communicate with people from other cultures. It is a natural extension of this to challenge cultural and racial stereotypes, promote tolerance, and work to reduce conflict and inequality.
Language acquisition is meaningful only when it is viewed as part of the human condition. What we do as teachers and learners affects our own small ecosystems and beyond. This is why ‘thinking globally and acting locally’, or ‘understanding and abiding by our human rights and responsibilities, should constitute a major guiding principle, not only in the classroom but also in our personal lives.
In a globalized world, where the effects of global financial and trade policies reach every corner of the planet, the need to understand other cultures and the interrelationships that bind us all together is increasingly important. To this end we have used a variety of techniques to tackle stereotypes and cultural barriers.
This book offers a wide range of activities, dealing with many Global Issues. It focuses on the development of critical thinking to encourage a questioning attitude on the pan of students. The many opportunities offered for meaningful debate, discussion, reasoning, and expressing different points of view, help to develop and improve communication skills.
The aim of the book is twofold:
• To provide easy-to-use classroom activities to enliven and enrich English language classes, while at the same time promoting a fresh and questioning approach to global and social issues.
• Global lssues regards language teaching as closely related to the global life we live. Given that language and thought are directly related, this book views language as a natural vehicle for fostering cross-cultural, cross-boundary understanding and for raising awareness on global and social issues.
The issues covered include: discrimination, equal opportunities. racism, human rights, globalization, health, the impact of the media. consumer education, environmental concerns, conflict and peace, poverty, the use and misuse of natural resources, fair trade, indigenous knowledge, the arms trade, genetically modified organisms, homelessness, disappearing languages. social justice. perceptions and stereotypes. sustainability, and refugees, among others.
We have chosen to focus on issues which we feel are likely to maintain or even increase their relevance. However, as world events and circumstances change over time, some issues will grow or reduce in importance, and some will be more significant in certain contexts than in others. Inmost cases the techniques are adaptable to other topics, and we encourage teachers and students to exercise their critical thinking skills, and to experiment and adapt.
Interactive teaching and learning
Inherent within the philosophy of this book is the idea that the teaching and learning process must be interactive; it must be learner-centred; it must be about human relationships; it must be about the dual process, the to-ing and fro-ing of the teaching and learning situation. A book about Global Issues could not possibly ignore this ideal. We feel we need to promote, firstly, within the classroom itself, such values as tolerance, empathy, sharing, turn-taking, and creative and critical thinking skills.
Techniques used include individual think time, pair work for discussion or improvisation, group work for brainstorming and research, whole-class discussion and data collection, surveys. interviews, games, drama, poetry appreciation, and writing exercises. In group work we make use of scribes and speakers appointed by groups, and we encourage discussion and debate. Much depends on the teacher’s ability to facilitate those activities and if they are new to you, you may experience some teething troubles. However, with conviction and persistence you will find that this kind of work can motivate students to work together and with you the teacher, and to become proactive individuals using information and thinking skills to question local and world issues. It will also help your students to develop their own identities and to develop and express reasoned opinions.