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December 1999 - Issue No. #37 (p.14)

Raising Consciousness about Global Issues through English

by Isora Enriquez-O'Farrill & Eduardo Garbey-Savigne (Havana, Cuba)

Environmental problems, globalization, territorial conflicts, human rights and moral values – among other striking problems – concern the educational community worldwide. Both as educators and as citizens, we are affected by each of these.

It is our duty to raise awareness about such problems through the subject matter we teach and their corresponding teaching-learning tasks. As a world-wide language, English can serve as an excellent means to reflect on these global issues and to improve the quality of life. Simon Sweeny (IATEFL 1998) has addressed this issue and has called for ELT practitioners to contribute to raising consciousness about world problems.

The formation of adequate behavior in society along with academic instruction is of paramount importance in the Cuban educational system. Therefore, all subject matter must contribute to achieve such goals. English, of course, is no exception.

Moral values such as love (of homeland, family, relatives, friends, etc.), responsibility, honesty, patriotism, solidarity and diligence are among the values which have been given priority attention in Cuba. Concern for environmental problems is also reflected in our school curricula at all levels.

The English language classroom offers great possibilities to foster student awareness about these topics for several reasons. Those discussed by Stempleski (1993) related to environmental topics can be generalized to global issues. These topics are a rich source of content for intensive language practice in communicative situations.

This content-based approach favors the integration of skills and interdisciplinary relations. Students and teachers in Cuba begin to reflect on topics such as "honesty" through brainstorming definitions, metaphors which express their views, attitudes and behavior regarding this value, or a problem posed by the teacher./p>

Students are then given articles, songs, poems, or photos related to the issue to stimulate their thinking and reflection. Student pairwork and groupwork are preferred to facilitate the exchange of opinions. Finally, students produce a leaflet, advertisement, article, essay or other project suggesting an action to be taken in order to enhance the needs of people's responsibility to preserve humanity in a peaceful world. The recommendations and forms of expression depend on students' specialities and differ according to whether they are teacher trainees, medical students etc.


Stempleski, S. (1993). Linking the Classroom to the World. English Teaching Forum, 31 (4).

Sweeney, S. (1997). Global Issues and the raising of Consciousness. SIG Selections. IATEFL.

MINED. (1998). Orientaciones Metodológicas para el desarrollo del programa dirigido a la formación de valores, disciplina y la responsiabilidad ciudadana desde la escuela. [The Methodological Guidelines for the development of the program aimed at Values Formation,Discipline, and Civic Responsibility at School]. La Habana, Cuba: MINED.


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