Boo to this bias

31st March 2006 at 01:00
The World Cup could embarass the English this summer - or it could be a real opportunity. The German police have announced that fans who goose-step like John Cleese in Fawlty Towers will be banged up in jail for two weeks.

What low expectations the hosts have of us.

Their anticipation is well merited. Even in schools with extensive international links, there have been cases where pupils sneak Hitler salutes at bewildered young German visitors. This is a very English disease: war films, comics, comedy shows and even schools have played their part. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has reported "widespread disquiet" over "Hitlerisation" of history teaching. At the same time, the number of pupils taking German is plummeting. Could the two trends be related?

The QCA has tried to address pupils' prejudice through a welcome unit for 11 to 14-year-olds on Germany reunification. The introduction of languages teaching in primaries, including training placements in Germany, may help rekindle interest in learning German.

But there is a much broader problem. On these pages we aim to spark curiosity about the many great and varied contributions that Germans have made to the world, an understanding of how modern Germany moved forward from totalitarianism, and the wider benefits of curriculum projects and exchanges. The World Cup offers a golden opportunity to break down cultural barriers and interest more pupils in the rich culture and history Germany has to offer. Schools in Northern Ireland (see page 12) have shown that when children from both countries work together, interest in the German language will follow.

Brendan O'Malley TES International Editor

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