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Worsening teacher shortage
No skilled workers in Germany without German teachers abroad

A group of students gives a presentation on the blackboard in a classroom. They are all wearing nurses' clothes.
Teachers teach nursing staff abroad, like here at the Goethe-Institut in Hanoi, the German language in courses specially designed for them. | © Nguyen Thanh Huong, Goethe-Institut Hanoi

In Jordan, Mexico and the Philippines, fewer and fewer German courses can be held. This also has an impact on the shortage of skilled workers in Germany. What to do about it.

“Hospitals would rather have their nurses yesterday than tomorrow, you first have to explain to them how far it is to reach a B1 or B2 level.” Jens Rösler, head of the language department at the Goethe-Institut in Manila, faces a dilemma: Filipino professionals, especially nurses, are in demand in Germany. Before starting work, they have to prove their knowledge of German, but there is an acute shortage of German teachers in the Philippines. The Skilled Worker Immigration Act has exacerbated the situation in recent years.

For some years now, professionals willing to immigrate have made up a significant proportion of the approximately 300,000 language course participants at the Goethe-Instituts worldwide. Further projects to recruit skilled workers are planned on behalf of the Federal Employment Agency or the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Language and preparatory courses are directly included in the projects. By 2024, up to 5,000 skilled workers will be prepared for the German labour market by the Goethe-Instituts. But without teachers there are no German courses, and without German courses there are no skilled workers. The solution to the problem: recruitment, qualification, further training.

Are cooperations with universities the solution?

The Goethe-Institut in Sarajevo is another affected institute. The entire Western Balkan region around Bosnia and Herzegovina is in the focus of recruiting skilled workers, especially from the care and handcraft professions. As in the Philippines, the Skilled Worker Immigration Act increases the demand for courses, which worsens the shortage of German teachers.

University graduates could be a solution. The obvious candidates are graduates of German studies. However, German studies is losing its appeal and hardly attracts any students. Targeted cooperation with teacher training colleges is the latest approach. Accompanying teachers are now trained here to support the training of German teachers. In addition, several teacher training colleges are already supplementing their in-service training programmes with the help of “Deutsch Lehren Lernen” (DLL), an in-service training series of the Goethe-Institut for the qualification of German teachers. This further training series is obligatory in the training of German teachers at the Goethe-Institut and facilitates the entry of graduates directly after their studies.

The methodology course for German as a foreign language (DaF) at the University of Tuzla in Bosnia also offers the opportunity to professionalise German teacher training. Here the Goethe-Institut works with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the relevant ministries. In Colombia, cooperation with such a degree programme has already been successful. Thanks to the Goethe-Institut's cooperation with the Instituto Cultural Colombo Alemán Alexander von Humboldt and the DaF programme of the Universidad de Antioquia and the Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg, there is no longer a shortage of teachers in Medellín. The location of the PASCH school in Colombia's second largest city is also a decisive factor.

Francisco Carreño, head of the language department of the Goethe-Institut in Bogotá, is optimistic about this development. Nevertheless, this is only a first step towards counteracting the nationwide shortage of German teachers in Colombia. Carreño has to contend with a large rotation of his teaching staff. There are currently 30 teachers working at the Goethe-Institut Colombia; before the pandemic there were ten more. Although three to six new teachers are trained every semester, the situation is not easing. Many qualified teachers simply did not practise the profession or leave Colombia because other countries in South America pay higher salaries.

Courses, exams, teachers: demand continues to rise

But interest in German courses has never been higher. Since the Corona pandemic, more than twice as many people have learned German in Colombia as before. And the trend is upwards. Francisco Carreño expects 80 to 90 B2 exams this year, and up to 200 next year. That is why he wants to structurally remedy the shortage of German teachers in Colombia. The Goethe-Institut in Bogotá wants German to be introduced as the second official foreign language after English. In addition to talks with the government, advertising campaigns are to raise public awareness of the attractiveness of the profession of German teacher.

This is also the strategy that the Goethe-Institut in Amman is pursuing to find new teachers. Advertising campaigns on social media and advertisements on German job portals will be expanded, as the job advertisement on the institute's website is not sufficient. Course operations in Jordan are working, says Mariam Aldameiry, head of the language department in Amman. Nevertheless, Jordan, like Colombia, is struggling with the rotation of teachers. In addition, there is a lack of young talent: normally, the institute has nine to ten trainees, only three joined this year.

In Jordan, there will be an even greater need for teachers, courses and exams in the future. The reason for this, apart from the Skilled Workers Immigration Act, are projects to recruit skilled workers, such as a pilot project with the West German Chamber of Crafts in North Rhine-Westphalia and “Triple Win”, a GIZ project for the immigration of nursing staff. For the intensive courses of “Triple Win” alone, up to nine teachers would have to be delegated. Yet professionals make up around 50 % of the language course participants in Jordan.

Online or face-to-face: What the Goethe-Institut has to offer

The Goethe-Institut in Manila is already established in the “Triple Win” project and has had positive experiences. However, the pandemic has intensified the shortage of German teachers there as well. The popular scholarships for a stay in Germany could not be awarded either because of the travel restrictions. These could soon be possible again. The Philippine Department of Education can well imagine cooperation on scholarships for German teachers or visitor trips to Germany, says Jens Rösler. After all, study or scholarship stays in Germany are particularly effective in language acquisition.
In Manila, classroom courses are only slowly being offered again. At present, 20 of the 26 courses are still held online. With an increase of 24 teachers, however, up to five more courses could be held in which nursing staff, service staff and engineers learn German. The doubling of the number of schools offering German as a foreign language is already certain. By the end of 2025, 22 schools in the country will be teaching German. Like Colombia, the Philippines is taking the path of integrating German into the education system at an early stage. After all, those who learn German at school are more likely to imagine living in Germany later in life.

The Goethe-Institut in Manila continues to offer online training for teachers because it offers flexibility. The countries in the Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand region have set up online hop-on hop-off courses that allow for individual processing of the DLL units. The Goethe-Institut also stands out with special training courses for teaching caregivers and “German for German Teachers”. The Goethe-Instituts worldwide recruit, qualify and train further, because one of Germany's biggest problems for the skilled labour market is the lack of German teachers abroad.