At our June club meeting we had a lively discussion about the bilingual Gymnasium system in Stuttgart. We were joined for the morning by Janina Seltzer, a recent graduate of Königin Olga Stift (KOST) in Stuttgart-West.
In a normal Gymnasium, all subjects are taught in German. Janina explained to us how at her school, certain subjects are taught exclusively in English, including geography, biology, and history. In addition, students are required to attend extra hours in the subject of English itself from the fifth class onwards.
In addition to the class work, English support is given in the form of short exchange programs to English-speaking countries in the younger classes and a month-long trip to the US in the 11th class. Her school also has an debating society where the students can learn a lot of extra vocabulary and sharpen their quick thinking and argument formation skills in English.
Janina also took advantage of the year abroad program in the 10th class by spending a year in Australia that not only helped bring her English language skills up to a very high level, but exposed her to a very different kind of high school experience than the standard German model. (Note: one does not have to attend a bilingual school to participate in the year abroad program.)
Probably the biggest surprise to those of us with bilingual children was that the bilingual Gymnasium program is not intended to support children who already know another language. Janina had only monolingual German students in her classes with the exception of exchange students. The program is directed at highly-motivated students, not bilingual students. As Janina explained, success in her school didn’t come from knowing English well, but rather from being a good student in general.
We thank Janina for her excellent presentation and wish her well at Cambridge University in the fall!