The project entitled ‘Theoretical and Methodological Support for the Integration of International Understanding into Primary English Language Teaching’ was a collaboration between the Institute of Education at Staffordshire University, United Kingdom (UK) and Chengdu Education Center for International Exchanges, China, and supported by the British Council. The project aimed to promote International Understanding and Global Competency in Chengdu primary schools by designing and developing continuing professional development (CPD) materials for primary school teachers of English.
The notion of Global Competency takes the form of a set of identified key-competencies necessary for young people to become successful 21st century citizens and to be able to function effectively in society. This includes, for example, developing the ability to consider and appraise local and global issues interculturally, to recognise and understand the viewpoints of others from background and cultures different to their own, to develop skills of effective communication via language and Information Communication Technologies (ICT), and to value and appreciate the importance of collective well-being and sustainable development. Competency-based education has been fostered globally since being initially developed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development OECD in 2005 since the publication of its report entitled The Definition and Selection of Key Competencies. In China, the curriculum has been reformed to incorporate key competencies which, in the Chinese context, are known as Core Competencies. The development of China’s Core Competencies has been informed by international bodies including the OECD, the European Union (EU), UNESCO as well as individual countries seeking to gravitate their national education systems around a set of generic competencies. International Understanding and Global Competency are regarded as important elements of China’s Core Competencies. In primary schools in China, English Language Teaching (ELT) has been identified as the most suitable and convenient curriculum area to incorporate the teaching of International Understanding and Global Competencies. Ongoing CPD is therefore required for teacher progression and understanding of how to develop International Understanding within the Core Competencies for primary English. Herein lies the rationale for the partnership between Staffordshire University and Chengdu Education Center for International Exchanges; the duration of the project was 15 months from January 2022 to March 2023. The project was timely for China with its New National Curriculum Reform which aims to reflect a more holistic approach to education and nurture students’ Core Competencies which are regarded as desirable skills in the 21st century.
The objectives of the project were to:
- Produce a comparative report between China International Understanding and Global Competencies and similar foci in specific UK curricula.
- Conduct a needs analysis to determine the CPD needs of primary school teachers in relation to English language teaching.
- Design an appropriate theoretical framework for professional learning.
- Create a professional development programme in the form of a Teacher Manual for the integration of International Understanding and Global Competencies into Primary ELT.
Researchers at Staffordshire University first undertook desk-based research, reviewed relevant literature, analysed of a range of relevant primary ELT textbooks and conducted a needs analysis baseline study with almost 500 primary teachers and school leaders. This preliminary work facilitated the identification of Chengdu’s primary teachers’ professional development needs in the teaching of English along with ascertaining teachers’ understanding of International Understanding and Global Competencies and teachers’ confidence in their integration into ELT in the primary classroom. These perceived needs informed the design and development of the Teacher Methodological Guidance and Instruction Manual; principles of the China’s New National Curriculum for primary schools were incorporated as appropriate. Academic experts from Staffordshire University with proficiency in primary education, ELT and the training of teachers created guidance and content to help teachers plan the instructional design of ELT for International Understanding and Global Competencies. The Manual provides pedagogic principles which are supported theoretically and based on UK frameworks and expectations, content and topics in the form of themed case studies, and a range of Grade and Level-related activities. The experts have included planning support, lesson design, templates and checklists, suggested extension activities and posed key questions to promote teachers’ self-reflection when giving a lesson.
The project’s outputs were:
- A comparative report
- A needs analysis report
- A Teacher Methodological Guidance and Instruction Manual for teachers to promote the integration of International Understanding and Global Competencies into Primary ELT.
- A paper outlining the manual’s theoretical and pedagogical framework
Professor Gillian Forrester, Professor of Education Policy, Institute of Education, Staffordshire University, UK