It’s hard to make an argument against the value of learning a second language, especially at a young age, but the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) political party believes they have a strong enough argument to stop the teaching of English in North Rhine-Westphalia elementary schools.
The AfD has seen massive growth in support in recent months and isn’t afraid to use its newfound popularity to continue pushing some pretty strong changes through the government. This proposal to the state parliament is a clear example of the lengths the party will go to in their efforts to rebuild a strong sense of German nationalism that they believe has been missing for decades.
According to their proposal, the AfD cites studies that claim the learning of English at an early age in schools has no significant life benefits. Instead, they believe schools should replace English lessons with more German and math studies.
Prof. Susanne Thurn, a teacher representing the Education and Science Workers’ Union (GEW) has spoken out against these “studies”, arguing that there is plenty of evidence proving the worthiness of English teaching in primary schools.
“Young children have natural language learning abilities”
“Young children have natural language learning abilities”, Thurn said in a Thursday report in Germany’s Die Welt. “The younger they are, the more confident they are in their learning abilities, imitating the sounds, rhythms and melodies of another language, and are less afraid of making mistakes.”
Thurn went as far as drawing comparisons to a similar abolishment of foreign language teaching by the National Socialists in the 30’s when again there was a strong push to favor deeper teachings of the native German language and culture.
The state’s school board will hold a hearing on February 21st to give experts a chance to weigh in before voting on whether or not to remove the English curriculum from the 2019/20 school year. Early statements already made available by some of these experts though show that it won’t be an easy battle for the AfD.