The Symposium on Studying Subjects and Specialist Content Through English – Write Up

The Symposium on Studying Subjects and Specialist Content Through English 「英語で教科内容や専門を学ぶ」 at Waseda University was an excellent and thought-provoking event, which was attended by teachers and students from many different areas of education, from primary to university levels.

The first speaker was Professor Makoto Ikeda of Sophia University, who discussed his research and whose talk was entitled 「言語能力から汎用能力へ:CLILにおけるコンピテンシーの育成」(From Language Ability to General Purpose Competencies in CLIL). Professor Ikeda discussed recent development in CLIL, going on to explain the meaning of competencies and their place in educational theories and methodologies. He then discussed how CLIL materials are much more focused on developing core educational competencies rather than traditional text-book materials, which he showed through a demonstration and comparison of materials. Finally, he explained about some “real CLIL” experiences he had the opportunity to observe at Shirayurigakuen Elementary School in Sendai. As part of Professor Ikeda’s talk, Corey Feagan was asked to take the stage and explain the approach being implemented in his school, which is to “learn maths in English”. Overall, the talk provided several very practical examples of CLIL, including video footage taken during a CLIL lesson observed in Sendai. What struck me was the English ability of the children in this video, and the way they confidently discussed their tasks using English. It was a truly enlightening example and left many in the audience feeling confident that the children were benefiting from their CLIL maths classes. However, several issues were raised, particularly the idea of first language ability to discuss maths, which came up also during the panel discussion which I will discuss at the end of this summary.

The second speaker was Ms Keiko Hanzawa from Waseda University, whose talk was entitled 「CBI/CLIL/EMIの再定義」(Redefining CBI/CLIL and EMI). At first, she asked people about their overall impression of these three approaches, and asked how they were the same or different. She then proceeded to give a very clear definition of each, explaining how they were different and the merits of each one. This was especially useful and necessary as several participants in the audience were being introduced to these topics for the first time. This proved very useful and allowed the discussion to focus more in the second part.

After a short break, Mr. Yasuhisa Fukuda from Tokyo Metropolitan Nishi High School took the stage to explain several advantages of CLIL from his practical experience at a school which has implemented CLIL approaches. During his talk, entitled「都立高校におけるCLIL実践の効果と課題」(The Effect and Challenge of CLIL Practice at a Municipal High School), he discussed motivation and authenticity, and also gave a lot of emphasis to assessment. He gave a very clear and solid set of examples of CLIL implementation, including sample materials, but also discussed the problems and limitations that needed to be addressed through cooperation between faculty. One of the takeaway messages of Mr Fukuda’s practical explanation was that, although the students found the work challenging, they also found it fun. Challenge is both a component of authenticity (Mishan, 2005) and a component necessary to finding motivational flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 2013), so this was a very encouraging observation.

In the next talk entitled 「大学で専門を学ぶための英語力:英語4技能入試導入との接点」(English Language Ability Required for Learning in Areas of Specialization in University: Howe does it Relate to the Introduction of Four-Skills English Language Assessment to University Entrance Examinations?) Professor Yasuyo Sawaki from Waseda University then came on to give a detailed explanation of her own small-scale interview research conducted at Waseda University from an EMI perspective. Her research looked in particular at characteristics of English language skills required in content courses where part of the instruction involves English and views of the instructors of the content courses on the introduction of four-skills English language assessment for university admissions currently being discussed as part of the government-initiated English language education and entrance examination reform (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology; MEXT, 2016). She was followed by Professor Kumiko Murata from Waseda University and Dr Mayu Kanagahara from Kanda University of International Studies, whose research was funded by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Education, Waseda University and a government grant and looked at the implications of English as a Lingua Franca for EMI approaches. Their talk, 「EMI(英語による授業)と「英語」への学生・教員の意識調査:ELF(共通語としての英語)の視座より」(EMI Students and Faculty’s Awareness of English as a Lingua Franca), presented the results of questionnaire research focusing on attitudes toward and awareness of English as a Lingua Franca and how this was under-represented in the current implementation of EMI programs. The main question which they asked the audience at the end was “What does the E in EMI really stand for?”, of course the implication being that it stands for ‘English as a Lingua Franca’, rather than one that conforms to the standards of a particular nation.

To round off the day’s session, there was a short panel discussion involving all the presenters. The main issues that were discussed were the issue of teacher training, preparation and planning in order to implement CLIL 「教員の問題)」, and the problem of mother-tongue 「母語の問題」, because it had been noted during professor Ikeda’s session that some of the children had learned how to speak about maths so well in English but they were not as capable of doing so in their first language. It was stressed that a balance needed to be struck in these bilingual approaches, in order not to cause problems for learners in their native languages. This reminded me very much of the issues that were raised by Mori Arinori during the Meiji restoration, who had also at one time proposed that education be done in English, only to face criticism for neglecting the first language development of Japanese students (see Heinrich, 2012 for a more detailed discussion of the history of Japan’s language policies). But it may be worth noting that even additive bilingual education programs, in which more than 50% of the content instruction in elementary school is given in a second/foreign language, are reported not to negatively affect first language acquisition (e.g., Shin, 2012).

The entire session lasted just four hours, but there was so much discussion crammed into that time that many speakers on the panel acknowledged that they were only able to scratch the surface of some of these issues. Professor Harada, who was the main organiser of the event, did an amazing job keeping everybody on track and fielding questions. Ultimately, the session proved that although CLIL, EMI and CBI are very promising approaches, what is really needed still are practical examples, collaboration, cooperation and an open community of sharing ideas. To that end, the Waseda Symposium was a great success in moving the discussion forward, and we hope to see many more events like this in the future.

 

References

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2013). Flow: The psychology of happiness. New York: Random House.

Heinrich, P. (2012). The making of monolingual Japan: Language ideology and Japanese modernity. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

MEXT (2016). Koudai setsuzoku no shinchoku joukyou ni tsuite [On the progress of high school/universeity articulation]. Retrieved November 28, 2016, from http://www.mext.go.jp/b_menu/houdou/28/08/1376777.htm

Mishan, F. (2005). Designing authenticity into language learning materials. Bristol: Intellect Books.

Shin, S. J. (2012). Bilingualism in schools and society: Language, identity, and policy. New York: Routledge.

 

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