Children learning English

Global Village: An English School without Walls

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While hanging out in the soft sunlight, hundreds of village girls and boys speak English in a free and frisky manner like parrots. This sight is common in Bukik Batabuah, Agam regency in West Sumatra. This village is blessed with beautiful rice terraces and cool air. The road along the village turns into a place of learning English by hundreds of teens located at the foot of Mount Singgalang. This smart breakthrough—initiated by Romeo Rissal Panji Alam, a banker and professional—is called English Power System, while the place is named Global Village.

Global Village is developed as a centre of human capital development where education is focused on the formation of attitude, motivation, persistence and capability. The program begins with a system to motivate students to speak English, followed by the development of their ability in sciences and providing them with career guidance. Young people are educated to open up their horizons, while other people can come and stay while learning various things of interest and participate in social and economic activities. Hopefully, the village will become a cultural and educational tourism destination.

The major approach of teaching at Global Village is transformation to a fun learning system. Teachers are required not to teach but manage learning processes using the English Power System whereby motivation training is its foremost important aspect. Those paying the village a visit will find it interesting considering its uniqueness—English school without walls—since Global Village is a great program which takes place not in classrooms but in the streets of a village.

The entire program is derived from sound teaching ideas. Teachers, known as Princesses, guide the students. Yet the true teaching is done by the students themselves, known as Super Buddies. Each Super Buddy has the responsibility over a group of children and plans and directs activities.

They are individuals who stand out from the group concerning learning and leadership, and are called upon to design activities and lead their own group of “friends” in English-learning activities. They are the true teachers of the program, and herein lies the innovation. Children teaching children and learners teaching learners is amazingly effective and reinforces the skills and knowledge for both parties. It also supports the development of leadership and other skills that will take these young people far in life, not only in English but in their personal lives and careers as well.

Having visited the place a couple of times, Jennifer Zirbes, an American and an English Language Fellow, said that Global Village should be lauded for its focus on authenticity. The program tries to use English in authentic activities and situations, through which it hopes to prepare students for real-life situations. It is frequently found that graduates are unable to speak a complete sentence, whereas in fact they have studied English all throughout their student career. Global Village is attempting to fix this problem through practical applications. Having a functional use of English opens up many professional doors, and in the grand scheme of things is beneficial for the country of Indonesia as a whole.

Global Village

Global Village

With Global Village specializing not in classrooms but in the streets of a village, the learning environment becomes exceptional. There is no classroom. Rather, the children gather in their groups along a narrow street in front of a farm house. The setting is natural and informal, and lends an air of fun, freedom, and relaxation to the learning process. This need for positive reinforcement and an encouraging environment has also been taken into account into the basic methodology of the classes, which the Super Buddies are trained in. Any educator who is worth their salt knows that the best learning occurs in an environment where negative emotions such as stress, pressure, fear and embarrassment are minimalized. In Global Village, they have taken some great steps forward in this direction with impressive results.

Looking at its formative period, Global Village was established on July 7, 2012. Romeo, the father of Global Village, mentioned that he has actually set up another Global Village in Ampalu Village in Pariaman, West Sumatra. However, it is discontinued since two teachers in charge of it are now pursuing their master’s degrees. He has received many requests to set up the same Global Village programs in Pekanbaru, Bandung and Bali. In the past two months, Romeo and his teams are making preparation for the establishment of Global Village programs at Andalas University campus, Sawahlunto—despite their attempts to seek and find teachers who are willing to work there—and Talago Village in Lima Puluh Kota regency.

Media coverage and social media are mostly run by their own members, yet Romeo did not stand alone prior to and during the program launching. The preparation started with kind assistance of Mr. Stanley Harsha, the US Consulate General in Medan who helped to launch the English Power System on August 25,2010, with the presence of the Remarkable Current Band from the US in Padang. The teachers were trained by Mr. Erans Williams of RELO (Regional English Language Office, the US Embassy). Even Agam regent Indra Cantri came to the place by SMS invitation for officially launching the Global Village on July 7, 2012. Romeo runs this program using his own money thus far. He is still finding ways since he and his team members want to help other villages too.

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Donny Syofyan is a lecturer at the Faculty of Cultural Sciences at Andalas University. Despite majoring in English literature, his interests are wide and varied. He is a regular writer for The Jakarta Post and Republika. Feel free to contact him at donny.syofyan@gmail.com