Standards in early foreign language teaching
With the adoption of the Joint European Reference Framework for Languages it has become possible for the level of language learning attainment for a particular language to be described sufficiently precisely to permit grading by reference levels.
In the form of the competence level descriptions, standards have now been developed that permit comparison of learning outcomes, both within the context of a given education system and at international level, irrespective of provider, type of school, and leaving qualification concerned. However, these standards have no application to the childhood foreign language learning engaged in by four- to ten-year-olds.
Such standards as are available for this age-group, for example those defined by the Beratungs-, Informations- und Gesprächskreis (BIG-Kreis) (Consultation, Information and Discussion Round Table) , a Munich-based expert group, offer guidance as to the competences that ten-year-olds may be expected to attain on a basis of 120 hours of teaching. The BIG-Kreis ‘ability profiles’ are applicable to any foreign language and cover communicative, intercultural and methodological competences as well as the description of linguistic resources. They can thus provide a foundation for further curriculum Curricula  development.
Such a description of education standards in foreign language teaching in primary schools takes no account of how learning actually proceeds, or of how much learning time is made available to every individual child. With a view to assessing and improving teaching quality, for instance, test procedures have been developed and implemented including as far as possible all participants in the educational process.
For young children moving up from nursery education to primary education, language testing is arranged to ascertain the extent to which they will be able to follow the upcoming language teaching at school. Currently, prompted in many cases by the school board or other responsible authority, more and more children attending nursery education and primary education maintain a learning record or portfolio designed to provide a clear overview of their learning achievements for their own information, as well as for reference by teachers and parents.
- Education standards covering foreign language teaching in primary education should form part of the curriculum documentation, thus giving teaching staff a basis and a framework for their foreign language teaching programme.
- Learning progress recording procedures should be appropriate to the age-group in both content and form, and their content and methodology should respect the principles of early foreign language learning.
- During early foreign language teaching, concern with achieving measurable linguistic outcomes should remain secondary to the objectives of fostering the all-round development of the child’s personality and generating and sustaining motivation in foreign language learning.
- External and self-evaluation procedures should be planned for an extended period and continuously updated.
 The BIG-Kreis (BIG Group), initiated by Prof. Hans-Eberhard Piepho in 1999, studies the development of foreign language teaching in Germany’s primary schools. Its membership is made up of experts from the relevant government departments, from teaching and research, as well as from institutes at national and regional (Land) level.
 Cf. BIG-Grundlagenpapier (White Paper) (2005)