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Global Awareness Education in the EFL setting: An Attempt in EFL Education in Japan

English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Education in Japan

In June 1998, the Ministry of Education in Japan formally announced that English education in elementary schools may begin from the year 2002. This new subject, however, shall be implemented as part of Global Education. At present, English education in Japanese schools begins in the first year of junior high school (grade 7). English education in Japan has long focused on the skills of reading and writing, but not on communication. Not surprisingly, there has been a national debate for years as to why many adults who have studied English as long as 10 years cannot communicate in English. Confirming this weakness, in a recent TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) survey, Japan ranked practically at the bottom among all Asian nations. 

New Goals and Objectives

Clearly Japan's approach to English education needs assessment and reform. It was acceptable to focus on reading and writing when the objective of learning foreign languages was to translate new ideas into the mother tongue. The new era of global community, however, requires a different set of goals and objectives. These new goals and objectives need to embrace practical communication skills enabling Japanese people to actively participate in a multi-cultural and interdependent world community.
Since 1991, Globe International Teachers Circle (GITC) has been producing EFL materials for children and adults in the form of thematic units, with themes taken from the areas of Peace Education, Human Rights Education, Environmental Education, Cross Cultural Education, and Specific Area Studies. This progressive program challenges traditional ways of teaching English in Japan. GITC's approach is to teach global awareness along with linguistic skills. Traditionally, English teachers in Japan have taught English through mechanical drilling of phrases and vocabulary. The phrases and vocabulary they use generally do not carry any message or useful information. They are merely intended to show learners arbitrary patterns of grammar and vocabulary that teachers and textbook publishers have selected. For the most part, this has been supported by a majority of teachers. One of the main reasons for their support is that this approach is teacher-centered, and thus, is easy to teach in a large group setting. Unfortunately, the number of students in public school classes is large. Classes can easily reach as many as 40 students. Considering the traditions of English education and class size in Japan, one can easily understand why Japanese English education has not been successful for communication purposes.

Effective Communication Skills

GITC believes that in order to actively participate in the world community, one must possess not only the linguistic abilities of a common language, English, but also the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that enhance more meaningful communication. In contrast to traditional approaches, global awareness themes can teach learners in the EFL environment to acquire the skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed for effective intercultural and interpersonal communication in English. To become an active participant in the world community, acquiring knowledge alone is not enough. Effective communication skills are necessary to share and transfer that knowledge. In addition, transferring useful knowledge with effective communication skills further requires one have a positive attitude toward sharing with other people who may have very different backgrounds. 

Thematic Units

GITC teaches English using thematic units. By providing learners with global awareness education models through thematic units, students learn about current world issues that are essential for intercultural and interpersonal communication. When these issues are presented in natural expressions, students are able to learn linguistic skills inductively, rather than deductively. This style of learning is embraced by teachers who see the value of holistic learning.
Some examples of themes and areas include, WHOSE WORK? (gender focus) from Human Rights Education, TOILET PAPER from Cross Cultural Communication, and CHOCOLATE from Peace Education. Please refer to the following URL for a complete list of Themes at a Glance.

Global Awareness Education Models: Definition of Terms

1) What is Global Education?

Global Education as defined by GITC is: Studies which promote the attitudes, knowledge, and skills needed to fulfill one's potential, become a responsible global citizen in a multicultural and interdependent world community, and empower individuals to enjoy their respective selves and lives.

2) Why Global Education in EFL?

EFL education worldwide historically has emphasized the importance of reading and writing skills, rather than communication skills. This, however, is changing. With greatly increasing need and demand for communication skills, both teachers and learners are searching for a more meaningful context within which to learn English linguistic structures. Increasingly, English Education is expected to help learners become effective communicators in all aspects of the English language. Therefore, in order to become an effective communicator in English, one must learn the attitudes, skills, and knowledge that enable understanding of and respect for others. Global Education perspectives give learners the confidence to share and accept diverse values and ways of living and thinking.

Globe International Teachers Circle (GITC)

GITC was established to help teachers in the EFL setting teach Global Education. The main activity of the circle is to provide its members with thematic units based on global awareness education models.
GITC defines terms as follows:
The APPROACH of GITC is to accomplish the goals Global Education. The GITC METHOD uses Thematic Units to support holistic language experience. GITC's themes are taken from Global Education Models. Therefore, it is possible for the materials to be used for children as well as adult learners. Finally, GITC's TECHNIQUES are flexible within a variety of 5 major activity patterns. They are categorized as WORD GAME, ACTION GAME, WRITING ACTIVITY, SONG/CHANT, and PRONUNCIATION WORK SHEET. In each 4-week syllabus, GITC varies activities to best suit the topic chosen. Please refer to a sample syllabus on The Restaurant Globe.

5 major areas of Global Education themes

5 major areas from which GITC selects themes are:

Human Rights Education:

Human Rights Education assert that, "accepting and understanding differences should lead society and individuals to protect basic human rights guaranteed to all human beings." It is also important that this concept is presented to learners through realistic and authentic language practice. With this in mind, GITC themes include: "Whose Work?: gender issues in house chores," "Aging," and "The five senses." These themes help learners become more aware of themselves and accept who and what they are. At the same time, they encourage learners to broaden their views of other people, and to respect other people's values and thinking.

Peace Education:

In the absence of war, do we live in peace? GITC believes that to live in peace means to live in a healthy environment in which people feel safe and confident, free from threats or violence, both physical and emotional. GITC PEACE themes focus on international relationships, such as World Population Problems, Food Shortages, and War and Peace. In addition, PEACE is also dealt with on the individual level, with emphasis on Conflict Resolution, Problem Solving, and Self-esteem Development. Learners are challenged to recognize injustice and consider what they can do to counter it.

Environmental Education:

Environmental Education themes are generally quite straightforward. Units such as "Tropical Rain Forests," "Endangered Animals," and "Earthquakes" provide learners with understanding and awareness, and give them a chance to learn more, as well as identify what they already know about these timely issues.

Cross Cultural Communication:

In this category, GITC pays particularly close attention to downplaying the differences apparent on the surface of structures. GITC recognizes that while peoples' practices vary superficially, beneath the surface of these different practices, basic human needs, relationships and feelings underlie all cultures. For this reason, GITC strives to avoid stereotyping cultures, traditions and peoples. Activities introduced under themes from this area are designed to show learners how various individuals can help create culturally rich communities in all cultures, and how beneficial it is for each of us to learn from diversity. Themes include "Toilet Paper," "School," and "People from Other Countries." 

Specific Area/Region and Country Study:

In this category, specific areas and countries are studied from global and human perspectives. A country or region is considered and presented from a balanced point of view, geographically, culturally, and economically.
One of the units produced from this area is "Denmark." The nation's geographic location and its main industries, as well as its unique educational systems and new family structures are the main topics of this theme. Learners are encouraged to learn about Denmark and new ways of thinking through a cartoon created from a true story.
GITC is now making an effort to develop themes based on Asia, Africa, and South America. This is because regional themes in EFL materials traditionally focus on the USA and Europe, while other areas, such as Asia and Africa, have been neglected.

Towards the 21st Century

In the 21st century, all aspects of our lives will be globally interdependent. This will be true not only for the people who go beyond their native lands, but also those who choose to stay within their native community. World connections will be more visibly apparent in our daily lives through advanced information technology. With this in mind, education in the 21st century must emphasize that all the choices we make in life can have repercussions for other peoples and places beyond our communities. For example, it is essential that children begin to understand what they choose to do, buy or throw away within their own community may cause environmental problems elsewhere in their nation, region or world. At the same time, it is important that this global interdependence is also presented through positive examples.
Global Awareness Education is a key to 21st century education, and while GITC uses it for EFL education, it can be implemented in all areas of study at all levels. This is true in Japan and throughout the globe. For this reason, GITC encourages teachers not only in Japan but worldwide to consider adopting this approach and begin working together for a safer, healthier and more tolerant world in the 21st century.
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