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Feature Project:   The Mekong: A Living Classroom

Community-based English for Sustainability projects linking schools, businesses and communities throughout the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

The Mekong River has great economic and trade potential. It also has important cultural and natural diversity. Some people see the Mekong as a resource to utilize and develop. Some people see the Mekong as a resource to respect and preserve. We see it as a living classroom.

Project Educational Themes:

  • poverty reduction through employable skills (English Language / computer literacy)
  • environmental protection through sustainable business practices
  • capacity building through English for Sustainability education projects

Goal: To develop regional capacity to communicate on individual and cooperative actions for an economically prosperous and environmentally sound future for all societies in and around the Mekong River.

Objectives:

  • To establish English for Sustainability teacher-training curriculum as a new method for GMS institutions to meet specific educational needs.
  • To develop participants’ English language and computer skills to integrate English for Sustainability community-based education projects within GMS curricula.
  • To develop participants’ pedagogical skills to integrate English for Sustainability community-based education projects within GMS curricula.
  • To produce teacher resource materials to integrate ongoing English for Sustainability community-based education projects within GMS curricula.

The Mekong: A Living Classroom is an ‘English for Sustainability’ project by Projects International (EON Foundation) in partnership with the Mekong Institute (Khon Kaen University). It develops awareness of how local and global factors interact while at the same time empowering sustainable choices for the future of the river.

Projects International accomplishes this through community-based English for Sustainability projects. These educational projects take high school students out of the traditional classroom setting to assist a local business and / or community organisation promote sustainable practices.

English for Sustainability curriculum integrates Education for Sustainability (EfS) with English as Foreign Language (EFL) training. The methodology challenges students to use English in real life situations to gain knowledge, develop skills, and reflect on actions for the economy, environment and society.

English for Sustainability takes advantage of significant trends in education, including:

  • International recognition for education to promote sustainable development (Agenda 21, Action 2015, Millennium Goals and WSSD 2002)
  • English as an important tool for regional capacity building and global participation (Capacity Building in the Greater Mekong Subregion: Training Needs Analysis for the Mekong Institute)
  • Student-centred learning in the community with non-traditional education partners (Managing Change Towards Student Centred Learning by Assoc. Prof. Richard Watson Todd, King Mongkut's University, et. al.)
  • The use of IT to improve education
  • Schools working with businesses and the community

How the local need was identified:
Projects International (EON Foundation) has worked with Thai teachers and schools in Mukdahan Province (Mekong River region) for the past three years. This experience has confirmed that transformative education takes time and dedication. Change requires creative and effective teacher training. It has also confirmed that country specific programmes do not meet regional needs for cooperation (infrastructure projects, HIV, migration, environmental protection, security, etc).

To develop a regional approach EON established a relationship with the Mekong Institute. EON was subsequently invited to the MI Training Needs Analysis Workshop for GMS countries in September 2003. At the workshop all GMS countries identified English language training as a key skill necessary for successful regional sustainable development and capacity building.

A partnership was therefore formed between EON and MI. The goal is to create new training programmes at MI that will meet the GMS language training needs for sustainable development and capacity building that support poverty reduction.

During the initial planning of this project high schools, ministries of education and universities were visited. The response to the project’s goal and objectives was extremely positive. Dr. Ka Saleumsouk, Deputy Director, Lao Ministry of Education clearly confirmed the necessity for secondary level education projects to ensure an educated population in the global era.

For more information about The Mekong: A Living Classroom, please contact Graham Harper. c/o The Mekong Institute, University of Khon Kaen. Thailand. graham@eonfoundation.org

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