The Link between Situational English Teaching and Sustainable Education by Juan Huang


Education for Sustainability implies the inclusion of core issues of sustainable development in teaching, such as climate change, disaster risk reduction, cultural diversity and so on. This cannot be achieved by technological solutions, political regulation or financial instruments alone. We need to change the way we think and act. This requires quality education and learning for sustainable development at all levels and in all social contexts. However, the current education in China usually focuses on theoretical knowledge, rather than developing students’ deep understanding of sustainable development through practical experience.

Take English education for instance, I found the most obvious problem existed in English education is that teachers mostly put emphasis on developing students’ reading and writing proficiency, while neglecting the improvement of their oral ability. This problem was caused by the pressure from examinations, and has shaped the education system into the test-oriented education. Many students are victims of this unsound education system due to the restrictions of their all-round development, and unfortunately I am one among many. I still remember the miserable situation when I prepared for IESTS speaking test and finally passed it. In fact, I have failed four times before. Every time I failed, I felt so frustrated and helpless that I doubt whether I should insist. There was no way for me seek help from the English class, since no chances are provided for me to communicate in English. The below table shows the comparisons in average IELTS scores among several countries.

Source: Website of IEduChina. Available at:

According to the table, we can see from the line ‘China’ that the average score of speaking test ranks the last but one in four single items. From the vertical contrasts, the average spoken grade of Chinese students is also next to the last. Looking at other scores, the fact can be found that all of them are just positioned at medium or even low level among these countries. This dataset shows the strong evidence that the problem is indeed existed in English education in China, which deserves wide concerns and reflections.

On this basis, I attempt to address problems in Chinese English education. Graham S. (2011, p.746) stated that teachers should take some considerations, including ‘the selection of realistic goals, the enabling objectives to achieve aims and the many factors that will affect the way the course is implemented’.

If I were an English teacher, I would like to set ‘education for sustainability’ as the goal, and choose situational English teaching as the teaching tool to achieve the goal. In this case, the time management and the subject of situational teaching are main influencing factors. I plan to organise a situation comedy (sitcom), and make students communicate in English. The subject of this sitcom is protecting the environment, and the background is positioned in the countryside and city respectively. Different roles can be chosen to play, such as the peasant, the logger, the architect and so on. To ensure the equal opportunity for each student, I will divide students into several groups, and let them choose a card written with the name of role. In this interesting way, the awareness of protecting the environment will be delivered to students, so their consciousness of sustainable development can be cultivated through education. The result is that students’ speaking ability will be improved, and the goal of sustainable education will be achieved at the same time.

Also, there is an alternative way that solely adopting situational English teaching, without the integration of sustainable education. Students can be divided into several groups to carry out group discussions about the questions they encountered in English, but the prerequisite is that they must ask and answer each other’s questions in English.

At the end of the discussion, each group need to choose a representative to conclude their opinions. Scores and ranks will be given to each group. The best one will be awarded and the worst one will be punished. This way can push each student to speak English, and gradually they will be accustomed to this class mode and their oral ability will be improved. As we all know, English is the most commonly used language in the world. Thus, with proficient oral ability, students can communicate with foreigners and even go abroad for further development, which in turn contributes to the internationalization of China and sustainability of education.

In conclusion, my presentation will talk about the link between situational English teaching and sustainable education. Three parts are included: English learning, situational teaching and sustainability in Education. I attempt to provide meaningful opportunities for students to practice oral English through situational teaching. In this way, we can achieve the goal of integrating ESD into subject discipline and linking learning in schools to real life experience.


Graham, S. (2011). ‘English for Communication in Multi-Cultural Societies: Education for Sustainable Development’, Learning Community for Sustainable Development, pp. 746-756.