The History and Current Situation of Bilingual Instruction in Germany
The Treaty on Franco-German Co-operation, which was concluded on 22 January 1963 and became known as the Franco-German Friendship Treaty, contains a number of proposals on intensive co-operation in the field of education. Amongst other things, it envisaged steps to increase the number of German pupils learning French and of French pupils learning German. This resulted in the establishment of Franco-German high schools in the two countries ("deutsch-französische Gymnasien" or "Lycées franco-allemands"). In Germany, these schools – the first was the Hegau Gymnasium in Singen – implemented the principle of teaching subjects bilingually by giving lessons in up to three subjects in French. By 1987, the number of these schools had increased to 25. It is important to underline the fact that the beginning of bilingual instruction in Germany is very closely related to the use of French, rather than English, as a classroom language.
North Rhine-Westphalia Leading the WayIt was not until the early nineties that a substantial number of schools, or bilingual sections of schools, were set up with subjects taught in English. In 1990 alone, for example, bilingual sections were established at 16 schools, quite a few of them Realschulen and comprehensives in North Rhine-Westphalia. In the rest of Germany, the development was much slower, so that North Rhine-Westphalia can still be regarded as a pioneer in the field. Today, more than 800 schools in Germany offer bilingual instruction, and more than 200 of them are located in North Rhine-Westphalia. Inevitably, most of the schools now offer English as a second teaching language; in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2006 there were 162 of them, compared with 23 schools with French. But other languages are also used in the classroom, such as Italian, Modern Greek, Russian, Spanish and Dutch.
Since the Länder are responsible for education policy in Germany, different models have emerged over time. The underlying principles are very similar, however, so this article will not be focusing on the differences. Normally, the pupils enter the bilingual section in the fifth grade (i.e. after leaving elementary school). In grades five and six, no subjects are taught in the foreign language, but there is extra teaching of the language which will later serve as a classroom language for certain subjects. Generally, this language is the children’s first foreign language, and it is taught for up to seven hours a week. The extent to which the trend towards early teaching of English will alter this remains to be seen. In grade seven, bilingual teaching then commences in one subject, often geography or history. In grade nine, this is either joined by a second subject – i.e. two subjects are now taught in the other language – or replaced by a different subject. The decision on this depends on how the respective school is equipped. The pupils in the bilingual sections can select the subjects they wish to learn, but generally no more than two subjects are taught in the foreign language.
The Development of the CurriculumCurricula are an abstract reflection of what is actually intended to happen in the classroom, and therefore provide indications of the basic teaching methodology behind bilingual learning. Beyond the usual formal instructions, only a few of the Länder have ministerial instructions setting out a curriculum. For obvious reasons, North Rhine-Westphalia has gone furthest down this road. The state has "recommendations", which are basically curricular in nature, for the majority of the subjects taught in the second language. The structure of these recommendations adheres to the usual structure of the curricula in North Rhine-Westphalia in terms of tasks, objectives, content, the approach to teaching and the grading of achievement. Many of the recommendations refer to the "normal" curricula for foreign languages and other subjects, which in North Rhine-Westphalia also include pointers for bilingual teaching. All of the recommendations have a comprehensive appendix containing teaching aids for the specialist language used in the subjects, examples of sequences of lessons, and other materials.
is an emeritus professor for applied language processing at Wuppertal University. His most recent major publications on bilingual teaching of specialised subjects include the collection edited together with David Marsh entitled: "Diverse Contexts - Converging Goals: CLIL in Europe" Frankfurt: Peter Lang 2007
Translator: Andrew Sims
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
Any questions about this article? Please write to us!