The Benefits of the Use of Children's Literature in English Language and Global Citizenship Education in Japan

Article excerpt

Introduction

Beginning in 2011, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) in Japan implemented New Courses of Study. Regarding the field of foreign language education, MEXT stresses the importance of increasing students' English proficiency so that, in today's global society, they can easily communicate in English and live in harmony with people from diverse cultures. MEXT hopes to achieve two goals: developing students' English proficiency levels and cultivating them to be global citizens. This paper discusses how children's literature can play an important role in achieving these goals. My discussion is partially based on my own practice.

First, children's literature is a potentially useful material for English language education, because it can enhance learners' motivation. While they enjoy good stories, English learners can also increase their English proficiency.

Second, children's literature is useful for cultivating global citizenship in young readers. While they enjoy good stories, young readers can learn the importance of cooperation among people from different cultures.

This study focuses on these two aspects. I will show how children's literature can be used as excellent teaching materials for both English language instruction and global citizenship education.

I. Using Children's Literature in English Language Education

1. Developing a New Policy for English Language Education

MEXT formed a commission to discuss ways to reform English language education in Japan. In 2011, this Commission issued a report entitled "Five Proposals for Developing Proficiency in English for International Communication" and published it on MEXT's English website (see, http://www.mext.go.jp/component/english/_icsFiles/afieldfile/2012/07/09/1319707_1.pdf). The Five proposals are as follows:

1. Assessment and verification of required English language ability levels of each student.

2. Promotion of students' awareness of the importance of English language proficiency in a global society and stimulation of motivation for English language learning.

3. Provision of more opportunities for students to use English through effective utilization of ALTs, ICT, etc.

4. Reinforcement of English language skills and instructional abilities of English teachers/strategic improvement of English language education at school and community levels.

5. Modification of university entrance exams to reflect the global society.

To achieve Proposal 1, out of three measures, the Commission proposed that "the Government, as well as education boards and schools, should actively use STEP, GTEC for STUDENTS, and other external certification tests to assess and verify that students have attained required levels of English proficiency" (Proposals, 3).

To achieve Proposal 2, out of five measures, the Commission proposed that "the Government should present messages from people who use English in their activities and provide other information to stimulate students' motivation for learning English" (Proposals, 4).

To achieve Proposal 3, out of five measures, the Commission proposed that "the Government should assess the current situation with ALTs, and provide schools and education boards with information about efficient methods of team teaching and the use of ALTs for out-of-school activities" (Proposals, 6).

To achieve Proposal 4, out of five measures, the Commission proposed that "the Government should provide education boards and schools with useful information for the implementation of training, such as exemplary training programs and teaching materials related to presentations, debates, discussions, and other educational methods" (Proposals, 8).

To achieve Proposal 5, out of four measures, the Commission proposed that "the Government should encourage the use of TOEFL, TOEIC, and other external certification tests for Admission Office exams, general entrance exams, and other types of entrance exams to facilitate proper evaluation of foreign language communication skills of prospective students" (Proposals, 11). …

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