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April 2007 - Issue No. #64

Teaching English for World Citizenship (p. 14 - 15)

by Paul Breen

Seoul National University of Technology, Korea

English for Global Awareness

English is more than simply a linguistic system that allows us to communicate or to test levels of communicative competence. It is a medium through which we can learn about peoples and races of the world; cultures; countries; and problems, whether social, political, or environmental. According to Kniep (1985), the goal of global education is to “prepare students for citizenship in a global age.” Fisher & Hicks (1985) add that global education is “based on the premise that the school curriculum needs to be permeated by a world perspective which emphasizes the interdependence of all humanity.”

In Korea, where an ethnocentric view of the universe is firmly entrenched in the national education system, there is a growing need for a dual syllabus of “language teaching aims” and “global education aims” as defined by Cates (2007). Many higher education institutions are presently very concerned with the twin pillars of second language acquisition and the concept of globalisation, but are running separate rather than concurrent programs of education for each one.

A Dual Syllabus Approach to EFL

This article argues for a dual syllabus approach in which university EFL programs are amalgamated with global education initiatives to use English as a medium for educating L2 learners about the world rather than as the end product itself. But in order for this to happen effectively, Korean universities will have to make a substantive leap of both faith and imagination. Indeed, some of us who work in these institutions may be tempted to say that we are ‘duelling’ within the constraints of the present system rather than getting close to systemizing a meaningful future ‘dual’ syllabus.

Many language centres in Korean universities are run separately from the regular university departments, perceived as servicing the L2 needs of students rather than actually teaching them anything. Part of this stems from the ethnocentric view that Koreans learn best from Korean professors and then practice that acquired knowledge with foreigners.

EFL Teachers as Global Educators

Yet, in my experience, most Korean university professors are keen to embrace rela-tionships with their international counterparts, if afforded proper, non-threatening opportu-nities. Many would accept enhanced roles for Language Centres if they were convinced that foreign teachers could adequately provide a holistic global education through the medium of English. At the moment, because ‘we’ foreign instructors come from so many places and have such divergent views, they see us as disjointed in the face of their homogenous worldview. This is why organisations such as KoTESOL can help create a unified vision of a global education program that can be adapted to meet the needs of university language centres in Korea. Our Korean colleagues are not unconvinced that we can generate good ideas and theories. Many of them simply doubt our ability to deliver on those ideas.

Part of the reason is the unfortunate frequency in Korea of people without proper teaching qualifications and with no affiliation to organisations striving to give our profession a better image - a subject I have written about in previous articles. This makes our task all the more difficult but it is one which is worthwhile, and can be achieved if we pool resources and share ideas, so that we can create the blueprint for a dual syllabus with far-reaching appeal. This in turn will raise the standards that Korea expects of its foreign teachers and eradicate the existence of the aforementioned problem.

It is my aspiration that in the future we will no longer be seen merely as ‘English’ teachers but rather as global educators who can teach a wide range of subjects in the English language. There’s certainly far greater job satisfaction in perceiving oneself to be a global educator than seeing oneself as only here to give people practice in your native tongue.

Practical Steps

So what are the first practical steps that we can take to implementing a dual syllabus of global education and English language instruction? Firstly we can promote these ideas within our institutions by running sample programs at weekends or in vacation time. In my own workplace, Seoul National University of Technology, the foreign teachers are planning to run a two-week global education program after the end of summer semester. In order to do this, we need to present a coherent vision of its merits to various departments and (some might say faceless) committees within the university. We need to present a vision of a teaching staff that has fully embraced the desire to become global educators, right down to the way we decorate our classrooms, using maps, books, information from Embassies etc.

Global Education English Programs

If, or rather when, this brief program is successful, it can be used to lay the foundations for a more expansive program to be run over the full 15-week Korean university semester, using different themes to bring the world into the classroom while continuing to teach the four key language skills of reading, listening, writing, and particularly speaking. The program will be adjusted to meet the needs of particular levels from Freshman through to Seniors, but will essentially work on the basis of one study/research topic per week, such as the environment, geography, economics, stereotypes and so on. A key point to stress and remember throughout this curriculum design is that global education is not teaching people about the western world alone. This is a fatal mistake made by some who promulgate the virtues of global education and then forget that the globe also stretches east, south, and centre.

This course will strive to open the minds of students and encourage them to make that vital leap from an ethnocentric to a global perception of the world. That will not be easy. It’s not only Koreans or East Asians who struggle with that leap. The first time I truly considered the global nature of the world was recently while doing freelance work for my brother-in-law’s construction company during winter vacation. Upon noticing fluctuations in fuel costs in autumn 2006, I was told (jokingly) to “blame George Bush” and it was at that very moment I realised how reverberations from the oil industry of the Middle East, and American foreign policy, are felt on building sites and property prices in rural Ireland.

Admittedly I am a slow learner. That’s why I teach. Driven by my sense of frustration at the length of time it takes me to see the obvious, I strive to provide a faster education for others. I believe there is real potential in Korea for a dual syllabus of English language instruction and global education. The groundwork has been done, not just by those of us who are involved with KOTESOL or with global education. The foundations have already been laid by the present generation of Korean students who are travelling the world and challenging the western stereotype of ‘Asians with cameras congregated in tour groups at mainstream tourist attractions’.

Global Korean Students

Take half a dozen of my students as examples of countless more: Bo Mi who travelled alone through Europe and worked as a conservation volunteer in France, London, and north Wales; Song Hwan who was a Christian missionary in Zambia; Min Young who studied yoga and Hinduism in the foothills of the Himalayas for six months; Seung Hyo who spent a year doing voluntary work in Peru and learning Spanish; and Dong Hun, the only remaining South Korean resident of a family whose members are spread between Germany, Japan, and the USA. These courageous and open minded young people are embracing globalisation by their actions rather than their words because they don’t know it’s okay to talk about these things in class; to study and research these topics in an English language classroom. We have to show them that not only is it acceptable in the here and now. It’s the future of language instruction in Korea, and hopefully the rest of a more unified globe.


Cates, K. (2007) Keynote speech Global Education at KOTESOL Seoul Chapter ‘Bring the World to Your Classroom’ Conference, March 31, 2007.

Fisher, S. & Hicks, D. (1985) World Studies 8-13. New York: Oliver & Boyd.

Kniep, W. (1985) Critical Review of the History of Global Education. New York: American Forum.

Paul Breen is a teacher with Seoul National University of Technology and a guest lecturer on summer courses in London’s University of Greenwich. He has recently published a novel concerned with global political themes, which can be accessed at:

Paul Breen, Seoul National University of Technology, Seoul, KOREA

Current contact information: Paul Breen, EAP Lecturer, University of East London, UK


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Kip A. Cates, Tottori University, Koyama, Tottori City, JAPAN 680-8551
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