World Issues or A Global Perspective?
by Brenda Dyer & Brenda Bushell
Chuo University & International Christian
Global Education is a growing educational trend world-wide, including
Canada, the U.S.A., Europe, Mexico, the Philippines, India, and Japan. Although
it has been criticized as an extra subject for an already crowded core curriculum,
arguments have been made for its necessity:
In an interrelated world wherein our survival and well-being is intimately
related to our capacity to understand and deal responsibly and effectively
with other peoples and nations and with a host of international issues,
global studies can be viewed as basic education. (Becker, 1978, p. 229)
The need for a global perspective in foreign language education in Japan
is no exception. With Monbusho guidelines mandating communicative language
teaching and the internationalization of Japanese high school education,
high school and university English courses are shifting to approaches based
on interactive skills and content dealing with social, cross-cultural, and
global issues. According to the results of a survey administered to Japanese
students studying English in three Tokyo universities, Japanese students
themselves see the need for a global perspective in the subjects they study
at college, including English (Bushell & Dyer, 1994).
While the rationale and benefits of global education in language teaching
may be apparent to many EFL teachers in Japan, the status of global education
in the West has been controversial. There has been and remains considerable
argument in the West about the definitions and goals of global education.
Lamy (1983) draws a distinction between international education,
which tends to emphasize issues, and global education which emphasizes
such concepts as interdependence, biocentrism, and "futures-thinking";
values, attitudes, and awareness. It is the latter definition, which implies
values education, that has engendered the most criticism. To its supporters,
global education is not a simple grab-bag of topics; neither is it merely
environmentalism. It promotes a change in the way we see the world and reality;
"a fundamental change of collective world view, equivalent in scale
to the scientific revolution of the 17th century which overthrew the medieval
world view" (Sterling, 1990, p. 121).
Definitions and Goals
Lamy (1983) identifies three definitions of global education as it has
developed in the U.S. First, the geopolitical internationalist view,
which emerged in the U.S. after World War II, defined international education
as education that prepared students for the challenges of protecting the
free world against the expansionist interests of the Soviet Union. This
early version of global education assumed that national interests are protected
through military strength and alliances that insure a global balance of
power. In this view, international studies were needed to help develop effective
foreign policy, and to assist in the development of the Third World, following
a capitalist economic model. The second view, that of the free trade-internationalists,
defined international education as education that prepared students for
participation in a competitive economic world. By learning foreign languages
and knowledge about other cultures, American investors and traders would
be able to compete effectively with the Japanese and European business world.
The last view, the utopian view, challenges the idea that every nation-state
benefits from global interdependence; rather, the capitalist economic model
allows rich and powerful nations to benefit the most. From this radical
perspective, global education is education that promotes change in
the existing international system that perpetuates injustice, conflict,
and inequality. Utopian global education encourages attitudes which promote
peace, cultural diversity, social justice and a sustainable environment.
Working within the context of the utopian vision of global education,
Graham Pike and David Selby (1988) present the following model of a global
perspective in education, adapted from Hanvey's seminal definition (1978).
They present five goals which constitute the "irreducible global perspective,"
claiming that "if any of the five are not met, then the school is failing
in part to address and prepare students for contemporary reality":
- Perspective consciousness is the awareness that we each have
a view of the world that is not universally shared and that the perspective
of others has its own legitimacy.
- Health of Planet awareness is an informed understanding of the
concepts of justice, human rights and responsibilities in the health of
society and of the planet. From the perspective of biocentrism,
humans are one species within the planetary system and not in dominance
over the planet.
- Systems Consciousness is the ability to think in a systems mode
with a holistic view of the interdependent nature of change and cause and
- Involvement Consciousness is the awareness of the ramifications
of personal and collective choices.
- Process-mindedness is the awareness that learning is a cooperative,
In global education, knowledge is not simply an understanding of each
world issue in a list of discrete issues, but an awareness of the interconnections
among these issues. Moreover, along with knowledge, the goals of global
education increasingly emphasize values and attitudes. According to the
National Council for the Social Studies in the U.S., the purpose of global
education is to develop in youth the knowledge, skills, and
attitudes needed to live effectively in a world possessing limited
natural resources and characterized by ethnic diversity, cultural pluralism
and increasing interdependence (cited in Horstein, 1990, p. 2; italics added).
Kip Cates (1990) states that global education in language teaching "aims
at enabling students to effectively acquire and use a foreign language while
at the same time empowering them with the knowledge, skills,
and commitment required by world citizens for the solution of global
problems" (p. 3; italics added). Also writing as a global educator
of ESL, Susan Stempleski (1993a) notes that a global education approach
to EFL involves four goals: knowledge and awareness, the values of concern,
the skills of critical thinking, and action.
Roadblocks in the Path of Global Education
Much criticism of global education in the U.S. and U.K. stems from concerns
about the values which it may promote: for example, environmentalism, multiculturalism,
anti-consumerism, and so forth. The public debate about which values
schools should promote continues to affect choices of curriculum, but with
little agreement. There is a similar apprehension among language teachers
about imposing values as global educators. Global education is transformative,
not conservative; students are often challenged to examine and perhaps change
their assumptions and values. This transformative view of education is especially
problematic in cross-cultural contexts where foreign teachers are trying
to respect the cultural values of the students and not impose alien ones.
A recently growing awareness of the sociopolitical aspects of English language
teaching (Santos, 1992; Eggington, 1993) suggests that when we teach language,
we cannot help also teaching cultural values, whether explicitly or implicitly.
Potential problems range from the concerns of teachers who feel uncomfortable
with "shoving culture down students' throats when they need to pass
the TOEFL" (Jones, 1993, p. 19), to the discomfort of students who
feel pressure to agree with the eco-bias of the textbook's or the teacher's
The second obstacle to the successful implementation of global education
is the existing school climate or context and its current pedagogy. In a
devastating critique of American classrooms, Horstein (1990) suggests that
to incorporate a global perspective requires a responsive school culture
which does not currently exist. He cites John Holt on how children develop
strategies which actively avoid thinking, in order to get through school
by pleasing their teachers and avoiding embarrassment. What students are
taught is how to seek the right answers, how to conform. Horstein found
in 1986 that in the classrooms he surveyed, activities focused on reading
the textbook, answering questions, and filling out worksheets. Furthermore,
Horstein cites research by L. McNeill that documents how teachers oversimplify
or mystify content in order to avoid controversy and to control students:
Students in these programs probably learn more facts about the world.
However . . . there is no discussion of change . . . or attention to issues
beyond content. Students may "know" new things and may be able
to parrot certain concerns, but aren't they simply regurgitating what the
teacher has told them and deemed important? Is this global education? (p.
These concerns about school climate and pedagogy are mirrored in language
classrooms in Japan. A certain climate suffuses the large university classes
of students who have been trained since junior high school to memorize,
translate, and obey. Factual topics such as pollution and deforestation
can be easily incorporated into the typically large English classes by choosing
from the wide range of English reading texts published in Japan. A unit
from these texts typically contains a short reading that describes a current
issue, followed by multiple choice or blank gaps and short answer questions.
But as we have seen, global education not only presents facts pertaining
to world events, but also seeks to transform learners' perceptions of their
responsibility in nature and in society.
Implementing a Global Perspective in Language Classes in Japan
We believe the best way to achieve a global perspective in the foreign
language classroom is through a learner-centered syllabus informed by the
students' needs, their present understanding of global issues, and a clarification
of their own values. Values-oriented education seems best implemented by
learner-centered pedagogy that encourages students to take responsibility
for their learning, to learn cooperatively in pairs and small groups, and
to make connections between the classroom lesson and their own lives (Horstein,
1990; Stempleski, 1993a). Students should be encouraged to use their English
to clarify and express their values, to think and speak critically about
world issues, and to judge and synthesize other perspectives. The following
are a few concrete suggestions:
The Needs Analysis: Beginning with an analysis of student needs,
teachers can identify students' beliefs about, and interest in, several
world issues, thus countering somewhat the problem of imposing teacher bias
on reluctant students. In order to identify our own students' beliefs and
interests, we adapted a questionnaire (see Appendix) developed to establish
a baseline of global awareness among Canadian youth (Roald, 1991). [For
a description of the results of that questionnaire, see Bushell and Dyer
Critical Thinking: There have been several helpful suggestions
about incorporating critical thinking skills in EFL (Dale, 1995). The following
is an example of a writing sequence, adapted from Friederich's model (1995),
which helps students to get a sense of their own bias, and to clarify and
support an opinion. Taking the topic of racism, for example, the teacher
may have the students watch a movie that features racism in some way (Mississippi
Burning, Do the Right Thing). After viewing, students write a
one-page problem-solution response to the movie. These responses are copied
and shared among students who then embark on the task of classifying their
classmates' responses, and presenting this classification, with comment,
in a three to four page essay. Depending on their level, students may be
taught at this point how to incorporate and cite quotations from their peers'
work. The end result is a very simple research-based opinion paper using
classmates' writing as source material. This fairly simple sequence challenges
students to go beyond their individual views of causation, and to inspect
them in the complex context of the views of their fellow students.
Values Clarification and Perspective Consciousness: To go beyond
a mere exchange of opinion to a deeper level of perspective consciousness,
value-clarification surveys are effective (for examples, see Stempleski,
1993b). In these activities, students are asked to define their own values
more overtly than they may have previously done. Cross-cultural simulations
put them into situations where they find themselves behaving in ways they
might not have imagined. For example, in R. G. Shirts's "Bafa Bafa"
students spend an hour in a simulated foreign culture where they experience
bewilderment, hostility, and intolerance. After the simulation, the crucial
teacher-led discussion introduces the notions of cultural world view, prejudice,
and stereotypes. Greater self-knowledge and compassion are the possible
results. ("Bafa Bafa" is available through Simile II, Box 910,
Del Mar, California 92014.)
Interdependence: Just reading about interdependence or systems
thinking may leave students confused. Interactive speaking and listening
tasks can demonstrate, rather than simply describe, these ideas. In Global
Teacher, Global Learner, Pike and Selby (1988) make copious suggestions
for problem-solving activities for EFL speaking and listening classes that
can serve as powerful interpersonal and linguistic lessons or as warm-up,
pre-reading or pre-writing activities: for example, cooperative learning
tasks where each student has a different piece of information necessary
to solve a group problem, or a hands-on project where a model or a puzzle
is actually put together.
While global educators in North America and Europe must often contend
with the constraints of public school curricula, language teachers in Japan,
particularly in university settings, have an enviable freedom in curriculum
and textbook choice. The potential for a truly empowering global education
exists in English language classrooms across Japan. Studying EFL in the
context of global education provides an opportunity for students to merge
cognitive with affective and social growth, and to connect learning and
living. Certainly studying facts in English about world issues is an important
starting point in the language and global education of our students, but
using English to help articulate a flexible and compassionate global perspective
is the wider goal.
Becker, J. M. (1978). Goals for global
education. Theory into Practice, 21 (3), 228-233.
Bushell, B., & Dyer, B. (1994). Global education as a framework
for task-based language teaching. Language and Learning Journal,
Bushell, B., & Dyer, B. (1995). Global perspectives: A
needs assessment for freshmen students. ICU Language Research Bulletin,
Cates, K. (1990). Teaching for a better world: Global issues
in language education. The Language Teacher, 14 (5), 3-5
Dale, J. (1995). Critical thinking and cultural analysis
in the Japanese university classroom. The Language Teacher, 19
Eggington, W. (1993). On the sociopolitical nature of English
language teaching. TESOL Matters, 2 (6), 4.
Friederich, L. (1995). Treasures: Writing about possessions.
The Language Teacher, 19 (3), 72-76.
Hanvey, R. (1978). An attainable global perspective. Theory
into Practice, 21 (3), 163-167.
Horstein, S. (1990, March). If the world is round, and
school is flat, can we have global education in schools? Paper presented
at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society,
Jones, S. F. (1993). Culture teaching or English teaching?
TESOL Matters, 3 (3), 19.
Lamy, S.L. (1983). Defining global education. Educational
Research Quarterly, 8 (1), 9-20.
Pike G., & Selby, D. (1988). Global teacher, global
learner. Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton.
Roald, J. B. (1991). Project international education: A
study of perspectives. Canadian Global Education Report, Paper 8. Halifax:
Saint Mary's University Press.
Santos, T. (1992). Ideology in composition: L1 and ESL.
Journal of Second Language Writing, 1 (1), 1-15.
Stempleski, S. (1993a). Linking the classroom to the world:
The environment and EFL. English Teaching Forum, 31 (4 ).
Stempleski, S. (1993b). Focus on the environment. New
Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Sterling, S. (1990). Environment, development, education:
Towards a holistic view. In J. Abraham, C. Lacy & R. Williams (Eds.), Deception,
demonstration, and debate (pp. 119-131). London: Kogan Press.
Global Education Questionnaire
Male ____ Female ____
Recent TOEFL Score ____
Time spent studying abroad ____
Indicate the degree of your concern about each of these global issues.
1. ____ the disposal of garbage and wastes in the world
2. ____ the destruction of traditional cultures and the environment by tourists
3. ____ poverty and hunger in the world
4. ____ discrimination against women in the world
5. ____ racism and discrimination in the world
6. ____ protectionism in global trade
7. ____ the destruction of tropical rainforests
Indicate the degree of your agreement with each of these statements.
1. ____ War is usually the result of greed or envy.
2. ____ The world would be peaceful if all nuclear weapons were destroyed.
3. ____ Problems in the world would be solved if people everywhere trusted
one another more.
4. ____ Developing countries are poor because their people have too many
5. ____ Poverty exists in the world because people in the richer countries
6. ____ The world's natural resources are being exhausted because people
in industrialized countries are too greedy.
Rate the frequency of your participation in each of these activities during
your high school years. Then circle the ONE method you believe is the best
way to learn about world affairs.
1. ____ Class discussions about world problems
2. ____ School projects or essays about world issues/other countries/cultures
3. ____ Watching movies or TV programs in school about world issues or other
4. ____ Special presentations by visitors who talked about life or problems
5. ____ Special school or community projects to collect money or help people
in other countries
6. ____ Discussion at home or with friends about world problems
7. ____ Viewing news programs on television
8. ____ Study/homestay abroad
Indicate the degree of your agreement with each of these statements.
1. ____ The problem of world poverty is so enormous and complex that
I don't see how my life or my efforts will make much difference.
2. ____ The problem of world poverty is my problem since the future of my
life is tied to the lives of all other people on earth.
3. ____ The problem of world poverty is solvable, and my responsibility
is to do everything possible to get people and governments to work on a
4. ____ The problem of world poverty is mostly a problem of foreign countries
and it will have little effect on my life as a Japanese citizen.
5. ____ The problem of world poverty is a problem for the government to
solve. It has little to do with me.
Indicate the degree of your agreement with each of these statements.
1. ____ I think learning about global issues in English (reading, writing,
and discussing about world issues in English) can lead to the improvement
of my English ability.
2. ____ I believe I need to improve basic grammar, vocabulary, and conversation
skills before I try to study global issues in English.
3. ____ I think it is important for university students to spend some time
in study about global issues, regardless of their major.
4. ____ I am tired of "Save the Earth" campaigns and I would resent
having an environmental theme in my English class readings and assignments.
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