IN 1996, research by the Goethe Institut in Great Britain and Ireland revealed that the image of Germany among pupils who had visited the country was significantly more positive than among those who had not. A second survey, in 1997 among teachers in north-west England, focused on the aims, obstacles and problems of organising an exchange, and examined teaching practice before, during and after the stay.
A pack of materials was produced to help improve intercultural competence. "We have to help children to see Germany as it really is by talking about the things they might look out for and giving them little tasks to raise their awareness," says its co-author Sonja Schanz, "and make sure they set off with an open mind."
The 'Spotlight on Going Abroad' pack conprises worksheets and a teahers' manual. Before leaving home, students are asked to reflect on their own culture, their preconceptions about Germany and their hopes and fears about the trip. During their stay they tackle tasks designed to heighten their powers of observation. Topics include food and drink, shopping, leisure, sport and relationships. Students are encouraged to record their feelings and impressions.
Back home, they collate their findings, compare their discoveries and look back at their first worksheets to see how their perceptions have changed.
It is written mostly in German, but the ideas and methodology could be readily adapted for another culture. Available from the Goethe Institut, Manchester, tel: 0161 237 1077. Teacher's book pound;5; pupils' worksheets pound;5, five or more copies pound;3.