Academic journal article European Journal of Language Policy

Public Debates of the Englishization of Education in Germany: A Critical Discourse Analysis

Academic journal article European Journal of Language Policy

Public Debates of the Englishization of Education in Germany: A Critical Discourse Analysis

Article excerpt


Foreign languages (FLs) have traditionally been a strong focus in the German education system, a tendency greatly increased over the last two decades in the context of the spread of English as lingua franca. Overall, Germany has responded relatively enthusiastically to the challenge of internationalisation of education. This is evident, among others, in relatively high levels of English as foreign language instruction at school levels, and comparatively (to EU average) high offers of programmes delivered via English (English as medium of instruction = EMI) at university level. These Auslandsorientierte Studiengänge (study programmes with international focus) have increased rapidly since the 2000s, and attract mainly, but not exclusively, international students (Earls 2013; Wächter and Maiworm 2014).

The term Englishization is generally understood as the use of English as lingua franca where hitherto a different (regional, local, national, or foreign) language was used. This can take the form of English as Medium of Instruction (EMI) (Kirkpatrick 2011), increase of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) via English, or English supplanting other FLs. In all sectors, Germany experienced an increase of Englishizisation in all forms, as FL, content and language integrated learning (CLIL) and EMI in the last two decades. At least 95% of primary school children in Germany receive English lessons (Statistisches Bundesamt 2010) and at secondary level, 87% (Statistisches Bundesamt 2016) - alongside the popularity of English, motivation to learn other FLs declined (Busse 2017).

The 2001 German "PISA [Programme for International Student Assessment] shock", revealed lower than expected educational outcomes, at all educational levels. This contributed to an increased international outlook on education policy and favoured Englishization, in the hope that Germany might improve its PISA rating by modelling educational improvements on countries with better PISA results (Gruber 2006).

However, the increase of English in education may affect other areas (sometimes more subtly), such as institutional policy, curriculum design, staffing and job satisfaction of staff (e.g. Mapesela and Hay 2006) and timetabling decisions. The term is used in this broader sense here.

The following section offers a concise overview of the German education system (for details, see e.g. Quetz 2010; Walkenhorst 2005), and FL policies in different sectors and Länder (states). The subsequent section reports on empirical and conceptual studies on Englishization in different sectors, and summarises the main concerns over Englishization in education in the academic literature. The empirical part introduces data and methods, and presents the results. The conclusion returns to the issue of the vested interests of different stakeholders (parents, teachers, students, politicians), institutions, Länder and the nation. This critical discourse study analyses the tensions between different stakeholders' interests, such as developing plurilingualism, protecting the German language, ensuring international competitiveness and improving institutional profiles etc., as played out in the media. Results reveal that, while a very wide range of concerns and arguments are represented in the media, some stakeholders receive more favourable coverage than others.

Education systems and FL teaching in Germany

The German constitution (Grundgesetz) does not anchor German as medium of instruction. Some small languages enjoy monitory status in border areas of Germany. Each Land1 (16 in total) has constitutional jurisdiction over education (Kulturhoheit), leading to diversity in education systems and policies ("kaleidoscopic" (buntscheckig)), Quetz 2010: 170).

Primary school education usually last four years. Here, English is by far the most frequently taught FL; schools near the French border often offer French. In 2007, parents in BW mounted a successful legal battle for the right to English (as opposed to French) as FL in their children's primary schools (Quetz 2010). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.