Primary children converse in three languages a day

30th September 2005 at 01:00
The first primary school in Germany to offer children teaching in three languages has just opened in Magdeburg, capital of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany's poorest state.

Forty-four pupils divided into two classes attend bilingual lessons in German and English or German and French. The third language - French or English - will start in grade 3 when pupils are aged 9 to 10.

Heike Gruschke, headteacher, said: "All subjects are taught in two languages with the exception of German, obviously."

German teachers plus native speakers work in teams of two, teaching core subjects like maths and general knowledge in German and French or English.

Sport, music and woodwork are also being taught bilingually and even homework is supervised on a multilingual basis.

"We use an integrated approach here which links all subjects and involves different teachers," said Ms Gruschke. "The bilingual aspect blends in more easily then."

The trilingual primary is initially being run and financed by the Protestant Youth Aid Foundation, a non-profit organisation which also runs a trilingual kindergarten which many of the primary's pupils attended. Fees are Pounds 50-pound;80 a month. However, the state will take over 75 per cent of operating costs after the first year.

Klaus Roth, the foundation's chairman, said: "Parents were enthusiastic about the kindergarten concept and wanted to continue it at school level."

A working group of parents and teachers agreed a policy of "total immersion" under which all aspects of the school day would take place in three languages.

Ms Gruschke said 160 pupils applied for the 44 places. Although she was particularly keen to attract children from bilingual families, the selection process was geared to attracting "a cross-section of children from different backgrounds".

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