A common problem I have faced, and I believe is encountered by all English language teachers, is the dismissal of English as a subject as unimportant. Especially, as students go to higher classes and the priority is to score well in competitive exams, language as a subject loses its relevance. The bleakness with which a language class is viewed by a student aiming for a degree from IIT and the like makes a language teacher ponder on the worthiness of the subject.
Students blatantly say, “Why do we need to study English when our focus is to get into an engineering college?” or “English subject is just stories. What is there to study in it?” This makes me ponder about it and I realize that to get the attention of the students they need to value its importance. They need to do more than just read the lessons, appreciate literature and write grammatically correct answers. The students need to realize its importance,and we as teachers, need to connect the text to something more important. So how do we do it? If we bring into the language class the global perspective or make the class a ‘global classroom’, the students are bound to get involved and realize the importance of this ‘irrelevant subject’.
What is ‘global education’?
Global education has been defined as the “changes in the content, methods and social context of education in order to better prepare students for citizenship in a global age”. It is a new approach to language teaching that attempts to transform classroom teaching. Students find themselves in the midst of world issues, understanding their urgency and finding solutions to the problems. So, the classroom becomes charged with solving real issues, understanding the interdependency between countries and communities, and in the course of it making them more tolerant. We can call it a pedagogical approach that makes the students conscious of the world, about the interdependence on each other, creating sensitivity and compassion towards other communities.
Why is a global perspective necessary?
With exposure and opportunities thrown open from around the world to students, they realize that the world is not limited to the four walls of the classroom. Also, they are the future citizens who will face issues headlong and will eventually work towards making the world a better place. To prepare them for future roles, it is an important for a teacher to sensitize them to problems from a young age.
The younger generation is not adequately prepared to deal with global problems. Since our education system focusses more on marks and exams, we as teachers, restrict ourselves to the textbook. But by introducing a global perspective we can broaden their vision while delving deep into the textbook.
How to include a global perspective in teaching?
English language teaching cannot be restricted to the stories and poems in the textbook. To infuse a larger perspective in teaching, and for the students to value the importance of the subject, global issues and perspectives provide meaningful content for language classes.
The stories, poems, articles included in Indian textbooks have themes which have a global connection. A conscious effort can be made by the teacher to connect them to economic, social and cultural aspects. Warm-up activities, closures and discussions for a few minutes every period will help infuse enthusiasm, create a consciousness among students about pertinent issues and broaden their thinking. Even LSRW activities for the chapter can revolve around the global perspective.
For example, when doing a text ‘Silk Road’ which is a travelogue, I kept a few minutes every day for discussions. We had discussions on why people travel, how travelling broadens our perspective and how the concept of travelling has changed over centuries. Students watched a Ted Talk showcasing the purpose of travel where people related different experiences of travel and how travel changed them which was followed by discussions on the same. To inculcate their creativity skills, they also made brochures/pamphlets/presentations related to different places which helped them develop a deeper understanding of different places, cultures and communities which in turn, led to developing tolerance and understanding of different cultures. At the end of the lesson, the students made a budget and itinerary for a trip to understand the economic aspects of travel while gaining knowledge of the geography, religion and cultural norms of the place.
Another way of including a global perspective is by connecting the text-to-text, text-to-self and text-to-world. When we connect the theme of the lesson or the characters in the story to another text or the world, the students realize the problems faced are universal and are similar in all societies. Students discover while making connections how each society handles the problem, cultures, values and norms. This helps in connecting real life to teaching in classrooms.
For example, when reading a story or poem on teenagers and their issues, they realize the problems associated with teenagers are universal. To infuse a global perspective in teaching a poem like ‘Amanda’ by Robin Klein, students were introduced to stories from different countries and cultures on teenagers and their problems. They listened to a podcast on stories recounted by teenagers where they overcame the issues faced in their life. Songs like ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry made them realize everyone faces similar dilemmas and inspired the youngsters to come out of their shells. This also led to the development of the skill of ‘perspective-taking’, that is, being able to see life from someone else’s point of view.
Introducing a global perspective can help students appreciate and enjoy the texts they read in class while becoming more conscious of diverse perspectives and cultures. This can help us equip the students with knowledge, skills and abilities while developing empathy towards the problems of the world. They can move from rote memorization and passive learning without digressing from the syllabus. We can finally overcome the irrelevance of language as students will find that the language class will help them connect to the world, thus equipping them to be future world citizens. Therefore, the teacher needs to become a global teacher to help students evolve into global citizens.
The author teaches at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Reliance Foundation School, Jamnagar. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.