This is a picture of William Kamkwamba, giving a lecture at TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) in 2007. He’s from Malawi, a small country in southeastern Africa. He’s an inventor, engineer, designer, author — and from what I can tell, a genuinely kind-spirited individual. He’s famous for teaching himself basic physics and engineering from a book he found in a library, and rigging together a electricity-generating windmill with scraps of material he found around his village and at a junk yard.
Kamkwamba’s story is a classic tale of ingenuity and how self-directed energy can lead individuals to discovery, invention and greatness. Kamkwamba pursued a dream with zeal, so it didn’t matter what his resources were. Passionate people tend to be pragmatic ones as well. He used what he had available and accomplished what should have been impossible. When someone has passion — or a will to do something — resources are secondary.
When I hear stories like Kamkwamba’s, I’m reminded of students living in the first world. In many cases, their situation is completely opposite of people like Kamkwamba. These people often have all the resources but none of the will — none of the passion.
I’m also reminded of Japanese English classrooms. The resource to passion ratio is stunning. Students have all the resources they need (and more) to become fluent in English, yet so many don’t.
There’s a tendency to blame results on resources. But what about the passion?
Give someone passion but few resources and anything is possible. But the opposite isn’t really true: Give people every resource but no passion and everything is impossible.
I’m tempted to say if we could simply inspire passion in students to learn English we could basically throw them scraps of newspapers and they would teach themselves. It’s an absurd notion, but I think you get my point.
There is a passion deficit in English classrooms. Students have every resource they are going to get. The missing link? You guessed it – Passion. Figure out how to bring that to the table and we’ve just changed the game of English education in Japan.