Head of german studies institute: “there are no students who speak no german at all”

25 percent of students in Austria speak a colloquial language other than German; in Vienna, the figure is 50 percent. But that says nothing about how well these children speak German, stresses Inci Dirim, head of the Institute of German Studies at the University of Vienna, in an interview with the APA.

Non-German colloquial language means lower educational achievement

"There are no students who speak no German at all – unless they have just arrived here." However, students with a non-German colloquial language in Austria would have lower chances of obtaining a higher educational qualification.

So far, the education system has not been able to compensate for linguistic inequalities, emphasizes Dirim, who recently became head of the Institute for German Studies at the University of Vienna. Today, Tuesday, she will give a lecture at an online event at the University of Vienna on "Discrimination against students with a migration background in the Austrian education system?", which will also deal with the aggravation of the situation caused by the corona crisis.

Head of German Studies: Three factors that influence educational careers

According to educational research, there are three factors that influence educational careers in Austria, says Dirim: language, social background and – to a lesser extent – gender. The concrete impact of this is that students with a migrant background in Austria go to AHS less often and to middle and special schools more often than students who have no roots abroad. At the same time, there are significantly more school dropouts among male students with a colloquial language other than German.

Apart from institutional discrimination, which has hardly been researched in Austria so far, Dirim sees two possible reasons for this worse position of students with migration background: insufficient German language support and insufficient compensation of economic conditions by the education system. Successful promotion of German must be thought of in the longer term, demands Dirim. "This is a process that cannot be completed in one or two years."

Dealing with students with special needs

In Austria, since 2018/19, students with support needs in German have been placed in a special education program for 15 or. Taken out of their regular class for 20 hours a week and taught in separate German support classes. This concept could possibly work – provided that the teachers are well trained in didactics and methodology, says Dirim. The question, however, is how well the German skills learned there prepare students for other subjects. "This is where these segregated classes reach their limits, because we know from research that language support must also be integrated into the subjects to some extent." In addition, in the model of German support classes, the students are segregated for a good part of the teaching time and a class community can hardly develop. In a country where there is a lot of segregation, there is a risk that the students will be even more segregated.

Dirim on best solution according to current research

According to Dirim, the best solution, based on current research, would be a combination of integrative language support, in which students with non-German colloquial language are co-taught by a second teacher during normal subject lessons, and additional German support lessons after school. This additional time is also important because questions about the language – such as grammar rules, etc. – can be answered there. – and because the students have a space there where they can try out language formulations, for example, without competition.

Hamburg concept for German as an educational language conceivable

Another alternative would be the concept of integrated language education developed in Hamburg, in which all subjects cooperate in teaching German as an educational language. In Austria, however, this would not be so easy, because here the lessons are often or. some of which even take place in dialect throughout. What this means for the promotion of German has not yet been well researched, he says. Several small studies among students, however, suggest that the dialect is an additional obstacle to learning German. She is by no means against the use of dialect, Dirim emphasizes. "But it must be made accessible to the students."

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