Connecting Student Interest and Motivation in English to the Sustainable Development Goals

Kira Adams, Yamaguchi University, Japan
Sachiko Nakano, Yamaguchi University, Japan

Citation: Adams, K., & Nakano, S. (2024). Connecting Student Interest and Motivation in English to the Sustainable Development Goals. IAFOR Journal of Education12(1).


English education in Japan has traditionally focused on grammar over communication, and the country has struggled to compete internationally in terms of English proficiency scores. As the country works toward the internationalization of higher education, improving English education is an important issue. One potential solution is the use of topics that elicit students’ interest and make them feel like part of the international community. This paper explores the use of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a topic due to their global importance and position, along with English, as a key to furthering the global citizenship of Japan’s youth. Because of the substantial number of SDGs, not all goals can be realistically addressed in a single course. Therefore, to find topics tailored to students’ interests in sustainability, this study examined the relationship between student interest in sustainability, International Posture (IP), and personal connection to SDGs. A survey was given to 266 first-year university students in general education English classes. A separate multiple regression analysis was conducted for the target variable, “Topic Interest” within English class for each goal, to determine how the effects and significance of variables differed for each SDG. Results showed that the IP subscale, “Intergroup Approach Tendency,” was significant for 14 and “Personal Value” was significant for 16 of the goals. For internationally minded students engaged in the study of English as a foreign language, the SDGs could be a useful motivational tool.


English Language Teaching (ELT), higher education, interest, International Posture (IP), motivation, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)