The UK in Ger­many

Ex­perten sind sich einig: je jünger man ist, umso besser lernt man eine Zweit­sprache. DAGMAR TAY­LOR hat drei Bil­dung­sein­rich­tun­gen be­sucht, in de­nen Englisch Un­ter­richtssprache ist – vom Kinder­garten zum Bach­e­lor.

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School­ing in English


Pro­fi­ciency in English is im­por­tant in to­day’s glob­al­ized world. Un­der­stand­ing how much eas­ier it is to learn lan­guages in child­hood, more and more Ger­man-speak­ing par­ents would like their chil­dren to be ed­u­cated in English — prefer­ably from a very early age. Help­ful, too, is an en­vi­ron­ment where they not only learn about the lan­guage, but can also use it in real-life sit­u­a­tions.

English from the start

Al­most ev­ery city in Ger­many has kinder­gartens where English is ei­ther the main lan­guage or is spo­ken in com­bi­na­tion with Ger­man. Some of­fer full-time im­mer­sion, oth­ers reg­u­lar weekly ses­sions. Many kinder­gartens have their own ap­proach to teach­ing English, while oth­ers fol­low a sys­tem such as Montes­sori or the He­len Doron method.

Ar­min Ritschny, who is re­spon­si­ble for fran­chis­ing the He­len Doron method in Bavaria and Baden-würt­tem­berg, ex­plains how it works. “The lessons are built up around singing, danc­ing, play­ing games, ac­tiv­i­ties, move­ment and lots of mu­sic,” he says. “The chil­dren are never bored. We never give neg­a­tive feed­back, only pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment. The moth­er­tongue prin­ci­ple means that only English is spo­ken in the les­son. One les­son a week wouldn’t be enough. Chil­dren need daily con­tact with English, so our lessons are sup­ported by CDS for lis­ten­ing to at home.”

Doron, a Bri­tish lin­guist and ed­u­ca­tor based in Is­rael, founded the He­len Doron Ed­u­ca­tional Group more than 30 years

ago. She de­vel­oped her own teach­ing ap­proach, ini­tially so that her chil­dren, grow­ing up in Is­rael, would learn to speak English.

“Doron re­al­ized that chil­dren didn’t need trans­la­tion. They need to learn English as they learn their mother tongue,” ex­plains Ritschny.

There are more than 80 He­len Doron learn­ing cen­tres in Ger­many. The lan­guage pro­grammes take place in the learn­ing cen­tres, which are run by ex­pe­ri­enced teach­ers. The same pro­grammes are also of­fered by cer­ti­fied teach­ers in kinder­gartens or schools. The four ba­sic prin­ci­ples of the He­len Doron method are re­peated lis­ten­ing, pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment, small groups and fun learn­ing.

Ritschny says the learn­ers aren’t just small chil­dren: “We have ev­ery age group from three months old to 19 years old, be­gin­ner pro­grammes and ad­vanced learner pro­grammes.”

English at school

Bri­tish and in­ter­na­tional schools where the main lan­guage is English have a long tra­di­tion in Ger­many. The In­ter­na­tional School of Ham­burg, which schools chil­dren in English from the ages of three to 18, opened its doors in 1957. The In­de­pen­dent Bonn In­ter­na­tional School, fo­cused on chil­dren of pri­mary-school age, was estab­lished in 1963.

A more re­cent ad­di­tion to the list of English-lan­guage teach­ing es­tab­lish­ments is King’s Col­lege, Frank­furt, based in Friedrichs­dorf 20 kilo­me­tres north of that city.

“Fam­i­lies choose to come to us be­cause we of­fer qual­ity Bri­tish ed­u­ca­tion,” says Kirsty Sharp, head teacher at King’s Col­lege. “Many fam­i­lies who are in­ter­na­tional need to choose one ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that they will travel with around the world.”

To be­gin with, the school is for chil­dren aged between two-and-a-half and 11 years old. In the com­ing years, King’s Col­lege will open a sec­ondary school and be­come a col­lege, ed­u­cat­ing pupils from early years to the end of school stud­ies.

“We very much have a ... hands-on ap­proach to learn­ing,” ex­plains Sharp. “It’s very prac­ti­cal; it’s very in­ves­tiga­tive. We al­low chil­dren to de­velop their cu­rios­ity, and we want them to have real-life op­por­tu­ni­ties. That’s one of the big­gest things for us. It’s about ap­ply­ing knowl­edge to real-life sit­u­a­tions.” Pupils take their IGCSE (In­ter­na­tional Gen­eral Cer­tifi­cate of Sec­ondary Ed­u­ca­tion) ex­ams at the age of 16 and later sit A-level (Ad­vanced Level) ex­ams.

The ma­jor­ity of the stu­dents at King’s Col­lege are in­ter­na­tional, and cur­rently 70 per cent are na­tive speak­ers of English.

“With time, and when you’ve built up your rep­u­ta­tion lo­cally, you get the lo­cal fam­i­lies com­ing as well,” says Sharp. “Be­cause the ma­jor­ity are na­tive speak­ers, the other chil­dren who come in with very lit­tle English will pick it up quickly.

A sense of com­mu­nity is im­por­tant within the school and among pupils. The school holds reg­u­lar assem­blies, and pupils are di­vided into four “houses”.

“When­ever I have to ex­plain to par­ents, who aren’t Bri­tish, about houses, I al­ways end up say­ing: ‘Like in Harry Pot­ter’, and then they un­der­stand,” says Sharp.

Rather than be­ing a sep­a­rate, English­s­peak­ing mi­cro­cosm, the school works to­wards fos­ter­ing in­te­gra­tion within the lo­cal com­mu­nity. Sharp out­lines one idea:

“We also want to give our par­ents who aren’t Ger­man, Ger­man lessons, so that they are able to ac­cess the com­mu­nity as well.”

Study­ing in English

Also in de­mand is the op­tion of study­ing at an in­ter­na­tional univer­sity where stu­dents can en­hance their lan­guage skills, ex­pos­ing them to dif­fer­ent cul­tures and view­points and help­ing them feel com­fort­able with mul­ti­ple cul­tures. It’s good prepa­ra­tion, too, for work­ing in an in­ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­ment.

Mu­nich Busi­ness School is a small, pri­vate univer­sity that spe­cial­izes in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion. Stu­dents can study to­wards a bach­e­lor’s and mas­ter’s de­gree in in­ter­na­tional busi­ness in ei­ther the bilin­gual track or the English track. The Doc­tor of Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion (DBA) pro­gramme, which is run in co­op­er­a­tion with Sh­effield Hal­lam Univer­sity, and the Mas­ter of Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion (MBA) pro­gramme are taught com­pletely in English.

“The de­mand for English pro­grammes has in­creased over the past cou­ple of years, even with Ger­man stu­dents,” says Bet­tina Würdinger, MBA and DBA pro­grammes ad­viser. “They’re all look­ing

for English pro­grammes. And as we’re a pri­vate univer­sity, that gives us the flex­i­bil­ity to go with the trend and make the nec­es­sary changes, ac­cord­ing to the de­mand of the stu­dents.”

Cur­rently, 650 are stu­dents en­rolled in the school, and roughly 50 per cent have cho­sen the English track. To be ac­cepted, stu­dents need to have quite a good level of English.

“They need a min­i­mum of 90 points in the TOEFL test or at least 6.5 in the IELTS test,” says Würdinger.

In­ter­na­tion­al­ity is in­trin­sic to the school. “When we were founded in the 1990s, it was the idea to pro­vide stu­dents with the op­por­tu­nity to go abroad dur­ing their stud­ies,” says Con­tent and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Man­ager Michael Huth. “Our bach­e­lor’s and mas­ter’s stu­dents have to go abroad for at least one se­mes­ter. We have more than 60 part­ner uni­ver­si­ties — in Asia, Aus­tralia, the USA and Europe.”

Würdinger says, “Our pro­grammes are re­ally hands-on. Stu­dents get case stud­ies and have to give pre­sen­ta­tions, ob­vi­ously in mixed groups. So in that sense, they get to know dif­fer­ent cul­tures and dif­fer­ent back­grounds.”

Mas­ter’s stu­dent Pas­cal Stein­mann told Spot­light why he de­cided to study at Mu­nich Busi­ness School: “The fact that you have di­rect and close con­tact with the pro­fes­sors, who work in their daily life in com­pa­nies, is quite nice, and be­cause of the small groups, you get to know them per­son­ally. You can build up a net­work with them, which is in­ter­est­ing and was quite an in­cen­tive to come here.”

The MBA class is small, with between 15 and 25 peo­ple, de­pend­ing on whether the stu­dents are part-time or full-time. The DBA pro­gramme of­fers only 10 places a year. “We can re­ally take in­di­vid­ual care of all our stu­dents,” says Würdinger. “We know them by name, and that gives us a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage.”

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