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March 1998 - Issue No. #29 (P.10 -11)
Tokiwamatsu Gakuen is a girls junior and senior high school with a history of 81 years. The school's motto "steel and violet" symbolizes the aim of the school - to educate girls into independent young women with the strength of steel and the tenderness of a violet.
At school, we respect each girl's identity and try to develop her good qualities. This is reflected in our school's English language program. We developed a Reading Library in 1984 where students can choose freely from a range of English books, we introduced Team Teaching in 1986 to develop students' communicative ability by pairing foreign teachers and Japanese teachers, and we published a book entitled Basic Uses of English in 1989 to relate grammar teaching more closely with communicative situations. We make all our own teaching materials and, in 1991, we published a teachers' resource book called Help Yourself focused on English conversation practice for daily situations such as "At the Store" and "Asking the Way".
The materials in Help Yourself were useful and fun for beginners. However, with our senior students, we felt a need for more challenging materials and started to explore new approaches to better satisfy student interests and academic needs. Our focus gradually moved from "how to teach English communicatively" to "what to teach through English", from function-based to content-based teaching. We covered a lot of functional English in our classrooms, but found that many situations were far removed from students' actual communicative needs.
Our next experiment was to introduce "project work" where students did library research on a self-chosen theme, such as a famous person or a Japanese cultural topic like Ikebana flower arranging. This was quite successful because it was student-centered group work which was new and challenging, and gave students a strong motivation for self-study. They helped each other, wrote reports in English, and gave excellent presentations in class with beautiful visual aids. However, we still had some feelings of dissatisfaction with the topics students chose, and the lack of a coherent theme. We still hadn't found an answer to "what to teach through English".
In the summer of 1992, two teachers from our English Department attended the International Institute of Peace Education (IIPE) held in Tokyo. It was really new and stimulating for us. The participants were teachers, NGO staff and peace educators from all over the world. They discussed serious global problems of poverty, racism and environmental destruction, exchanging information and opinions through presentations and workshops. We learned a lot about global issues which we hadn't known to be so urgent, and realized the importance of global education at school. We felt this might be one answer to "what to teach through English".
As English teachers, we have a special reason for dealing with global issues in our classrooms. English is a global language. We want to develop our students' communicative skills and their ability to talk to people from other countries. We need to ensure that they know about the world, understand global issues and can discuss these with people who aren't able to speak Japanese. This encouraged us to introduce global education into our classes.
Even though Japanese students live in an information-intensive society with computers and mass media, they are not so concerned about what's happening in the world. There are few students who watch TV news or read the newspaper every day Although some students travel abroad, they often have little contact with people outside the travel business. The recent increase in homestay programs has meant that we must prepare students to communicate with their homestay families. In addition to speaking skills, their global awareness and ability to explain about Japan are much more vital than in the past.
So, after much discussion, we began introducing global topics into our senior classes,. At first, we used the book Women's Asia for women's issues and the film Malcolm X to teach about racism. Once we opened our eyes to global news in the newspaper and on TV, we found so much that we wanted to use in our classes: the refugee crisis in Bosnia, endangered animals, environmental pollution, unemployment... It was challenging and interesting for our teachers to turn this news into good material for English activities. The students' response was very positive and they showed much more interest than we expected.
We believe team teaching pairing a native-speaker teacher and a Japanese teacher is a good way to teach global issues. Reading authentic news articles in an English newspaper is very difficult for high school students, and for Japanese teachers it's hard to simplify into easy English. Foreign teachers can deal with the news easily, but need the Japanese teachers' help when vocabulary, or the background to the news, is difficult to explain in English. So, we cooperate and help each other, but take different roles in class.
In teaching about global issues through English, teachers don't have to be experts. We can learn together with students, exchanging information and knowledge with them. Sometimes, students will know more about the ozone layer or acid rain, because they have studied these in science class. If we don't know much about geography or political issues, we can ask a social studies teacher for help. If you see yourself as a "facilitator" who encourages self-study by providing resources, it becomes easier to start "global education".
Another important thing. When we deal with news, we must choosenews from fair sources, not biased ones, and we must avoid emphasizing our own opinions. The main thing is to make students more aware of global realities, and to develop their thinking, study skills and ability to consider issues from several different angles. Studying global issues must also be fun for both students and teachers. We must avoid becoming overly gloomy even though the topics are serious. A game element is important for light relief.
It is now six years since we began introducing global issues to our students. In 1994, our new school curriculum started with Oral Communication B, 2 hours of team-taught LS (Listening and Speaking) for juniors, plus new writing and oral courses. Each grade is developing elements of global education, and Japanese teachers are developing global ed materials for regular textbook classes, too.
Our students have shown a very positive response to global education. The senior students especially have been more motivated to understand today's world since we gave them the task of making a scrapbook of global news from the newspaper. Of course, there are always some students who are less motivated and find it difficult to read the news, even in Japanese. But if they keep at it, with our encouragement, 'tracking the news' over a year really helps them to develop a clearer understanding of global issues.
In teaching global issues, we can't avoid difficult vocabulary not found in textbooks. However, recent university entrance exams for English are featuring more passages on global topics, so this actually helps the students.
Our aim, then, is to develop students' English skills, and also their ability to think for themselves, give opinions and make decisions. As they begin to think globally, this leads naturally to acting locally. However, as English teachers, we want to focus on developing students' global awareness and English skills. If students become interested in a problem and want to do something, they will act on their own initiative when the time is right. We hope that each student at Tokiwamatsu Gakuen will leave us to become an independent woman with sensitivity to others and an awareness of global realities, ready to take responsibility as a global citizen for helping to shape the 21st century.
To share our ideas on teaching global issues through English, we have just published Go Global - A Global Education Resource Book for Language Teachers (2,400 yen). To get a copy, contact us at the address below. A video demonstrating activities from the book is also available for an additional 1,000 yen
A Global Education Resource Book for Language Teachers
Part I Learning About the World A. Where in the World? World Regions B. World News and Current Events C. Video and Reading: Street Children D. World Countries: Class Presentations E. International Hour: Foreign Guest Speakers Part II Global Issues A. Global Issues Vocabulary B. World News: Photo Gallery C. Using English Newspapers D. Learning about Volunteer Activities E. Understanding World Religions F. Women in Asia: Project Work Part III Talking about Japan A. Describing Japanese Things B. Quiz on Japanese Culture C. Japanese Culture Research Project
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