“There is no such thing as ‘away’”: An Inquiry-Based Approach to Developing Learners’ Sustainability Literacy in the EFL Classroom
Keywords:e-waste, sustainability literacy, inquiry-based learning, Nigeria
The explosion of electric and electronic waste (e-waste) is one of the major environmental challenges of our time. Only a small amount of e-waste is properly disposed of or recycled, with most e-waste ending up in landfills or incinerators, or being exported to developing countries where it represents an even greater hazard to both the environment and human health and life. This article tackles this issue in the context of English as a foreign language teaching, arguing that exploring the global streams of e-waste and its environmental impacts at a time when there is an unprecedented demand for electric and electronic devices in all areas of life, including education, can help develop learners’ sustainability literacy. The first part of the paper looks at the concept of e-waste, its economic implications, and the social impacts arising from e-waste (disposal). The ensuing part then looks at e-waste in the context of global sustainability initiatives which, for example, aim at encouraging individuals to become more committed to sustainable lifestyles and thus help to mitigate climate change. The following sections are of a more practical nature, exploring the potential of the topic for the English as a foreign language (EFL) classroom, arguing that English language teaching no longer solely focuses on developing learners’ language skills but also a plethora of other competences that allow learners to participate in global (environmental) discourses. The practical classroom example takes an inquiry-based approach, which not only allows learners to pursue their own interests but also develops their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In this example, Nigeria serves to illustrate the devastating effects of (illegal) e-waste (disposal) and the complex socio-economic aspects of e-waste (mis-)management.
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