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Regional Differences in MBE in Germany

    Germany consists of 16 federal states, each of which has its own school system.


  • Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: does not take part in the bilingual system at all (so far)]
  • Bremen: subjects in the general curriculum are cut to provide enough time for the bilingual lessons (owing to the financial situation).
  • Lower Saxony: possibility of offering more lessons.
  • Northrhine-Westphalia: grades 5 and 6: two additional lessons (in the foreign language), grades 7 and 8 another additional lesson.

 Bilingual education in the German context implies the following:

  • additional general language lessons to provide the necessary language skills in grades 5 and 6.
  • starting in 7th grade, the bilingual subject, i.e. History, Geography, Technology, Politics, Biology, Arts or Sport taught in the foreign language and in the mother tongue in one additional lesson to make sure that the specific terms are understood.
  • MBE non-compulsory
  • MBE teachers must be qualified in both the foreign language and the subject area they are teaching. Problems of teacher-supply due to lack of training courses in some federal states.


Regional Case Study: Bilingual Education in the Rhineland-Palatinate

After Year 4: choice of school to gain access to MBE

    Parental choice of school, made in consultation with teachers and with child’s ability in mind, can determine whether a child enters MBE at secondary level.

Gymnasium: possibility of choosing French or English bilingual education

    Due to geographical location of this region, preponderance of French taught in MBE. 1992 = 13 Gymnasien had bilingual sections operating in French/German and 9 in English/German

First two years: two additional lessons in the first foreign language (= 5+2)

    7 hours per week in first two years, as opposed to the normal 5 hours taken by non-MBE students. This provides a solid basic knowledge of the foreign language

Towards the end of Year 6 : gradual introduction to the subject matter (usually History / Geography)

    Introduced slightly earlier than normal to give MBE students a taster and the option of opting out of MBE learning in Year 7.

Year 7: bilingual instruction starts, usually two lessons in the foreign language and one in German (= 2+1; sometimes 1+1)

    German lessons to ensure that all concepts, especially technical terms, have been understood and secured 1+1, where used, due to financial constraints

Common core for the bilingual sections in upper-level secondary education

    History, Geography & Civic Education = Gemeinschafts/Sozialkunde taught in the foreign language, usually putting special emphasis on the social and political background in the partner country.

    Possibility of taking foreign certificates (Baccalauréat [Bac] together with the Allgemeine Hochschulreife [Abitur])


    No foreign language certificates awarded to the students. Small number of schools are taking part in bilingual programme so far but growing. MBE sets out to provide students with a deep knowledge of the foreign language to match the growing demands of the free job market.

Hauptschule: pilot project (1989-1997) at 3 different schools

    No MBE until pilot project ("206A") started at three Hauptschulen in 1989. Unique in Germany due to low expectations of students going to these schools. MBE in English only and their only subject for this is Arbeitslehre (basic technology & economics).

    MBE teachers follow the official syllabus set for subjects taught in the mother tongue.     Success of this project led the Ministry of Education to write additional special curricula that are oriented towards the specific aims of the bilingual sections. History and Geography syllabi designed for classes ranging from Year seven to Year ten are being evaluated.

    Textbooks from the target language country used and supplemented with resources from the PZ (regional Teacher Centre).


Future Prospects

  • integrating elements of bilingual education into general modern language teaching;
  • setting up bilingual sections for second or third foreign languages;
  • offering bilingual education as an option in all lower and upper secondary schools;
  • developing concepts for teacher-training and in-service training;
  • developing student teacher exchanges;
  • developing bilateral co-operation with regard to the partial integration of binational education systems, curricula and diplomas, following the example of the Franco-German schools experiment in simultaneously awarding the Abitur and the Baccalauréat diplomas;
  • co-ordinating curricular programmes leading to two different national diplomas required for university entrance with university courses leading to a dual qualification;
  • exchanges of ideas and teaching material serving bilingual education;
  • setting up a network of bilateral projects aimed at having pupils work together in the places most suited to the themes chosen in the partner country;

Click here for more information about MBE in Germany

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