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Evaluating Bilingual Education in Germany

CLIL Students’ General English Proficiency, EFL Self-Concept and Interest

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Dominik Rumlich

The author uses a theoretical account rooted in TEFL, language acquisition and educational psychology to provide the basis for the development of a comprehensive model of language learning in CLIL. It incorporates prior knowledge, EFL self-concept, interest in EFL classes, verbal cognitive abilities and contact to English. This model is used to estimate the effects of CLIL in the context of high-intensity programmes at German Gymnasien. The statistical evaluation of the quasi-experimental data from 1,000 learners proves the existence of large initial differences due to selection, preparation and class composition effects. After two years, one finds no significant effects of CLIL apart from a minor increase in self-concept, suggesting that the actual effects of CLIL have often been overestimated.

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1. Introduction

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1.   Introduction

“Bilingual education is the only way to educate children in the twenty-first century.“

(García, 2009, p. 5; her emphasis)

In Germany, Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) as it is known today – often also referred to as bilingual education (Bilingualer [Sachfach-]Unterricht) – has existed for approximately 45 years. After the establishment of the first CLIL strand in 1969 in Singen (KMK, 2006, p. 8)2, it took some 20 years before the CLIL movement gained momentum on a noticeable scale. At that time in 1991, English surpassed French as the most popular CLIL language (Wolff, 1997b, p. 171), which was accompanied by a rapid and still ongoing surge in CLIL programmes. These developments were facilitated by major political changes on a European level: Ties among European countries strengthened, culminating in the Treaty on European Union signed in 1992 (European Union, 2014), and more and more importance was attached to cooperation, common goals and standards in the areas of language policy and education. This also led to a number of influential initiatives such as the “Lingua” programme (launched in 1990), “Sokrates I” and “Sokrates II” (1995–2006) and the action plan “Promoting language learning and linguistic diversity” (2004–2006). While the former was accompanied by augmenting “interest in bilingual education methodologies” (European Centre for Modern Languages, 2008), the European Commission (p. 8) in their 1995 White paper on education and training already went so far as to suggest that “secondary school pupils...

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