Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

The Necessity of Teaching Sustainable Development through English Language Teaching

Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

The Necessity of Teaching Sustainable Development through English Language Teaching

Article excerpt


India has witnessed a massive increase in its population and economic wealth in the past three decades. It is legendary that India manages to feed the second largest population in the world while maintaining continuous, rapid national economic growth. These developments, however, have been achieved at a tremendous ecological cost. Against the background of such severe environmental damage, how should India's educational system take measures to respond to the sustainable development crisis? How can language teachers prepare students to handle these sustainable development issues? What is the responsibility of teachers of English who are both knowledge conveyors and members of society? This paper aims to give an overview of how English language teaching will benefit the engineering graduates in learning about sustainable development for the welfare of the society.

Sustainable Development

To understand the concept of sustainable development, one needs to answer the following questions: What does sustainable development really mean? What is the need for sustainable development? How can sustainable development be achieved?

The concept of sustainable development has been described by the 1987 Brundtland Commission Report as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."1 The scarcity of resources (for example, coal and petroleum products), degradation of resources (for example, forest, water, and soil), and inequality amongst societies (developed and developing countries) impress the need for sustainable development. Sustainable development can be attained through formation of a sustainable literate society and people. Engineers are involved in the production and implementation stage, and the product created and service provided by the engineers are directly related to sustainability. Being part of the issues related to sustainability, they can also offer solutions that are good for the environment, economy, and society. The four dimensions to sustainable development-society, environment, culture, and economy-present a model for thinking about the future in which environmental, societal, and economic considerations are balanced in the pursuit of an improved quality of life. To achieve this, classroom teaching is employed to inculcate the knowledge of sustainable development in the students, and the focus of this paper is on how this can be imparted through English language teaching/learning sessions.

Sustainable Development and English Language Teaching

Teaching sustainable development through language teaching often raises resistance from many English language teachers as they feel that their main job is language teaching, which includes teaching grammar, vocabulary, and communication skills but not addressing the problems related to sustainable development. Nevertheless, many language educators have now begun to think that it is their social responsibility to embed sustainable development issues in language teaching. Jacobs and Cates (1999, 48) have stated that "second language education can play an important role in people learning about and participating in environmental protection."

Increasingly more people are realizing that today's challenging local and global issues are not only the concern of the experts, but will require the support and active participation of both students and teachers from cross-curriculum.

Research Methodology

To investigate the role of English language teaching in imparting an understanding of sustainable development, a survey was conducted among forty-five English lecturers from ten engineering colleges in the state of Bihar. The reason for the selection of the state of Bihar as the area of research study is that Bihar is one of the BIMARU states of India, which means the state is characterized by high poverty rate, mass illiteracy, lack of infrastructure, fewer technical institutions, income inequality, and low awareness of environmental and global issues. …

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