Germany - 4th Bilingual Conference for Science Teachers, Kassel

4th Bilingual Conference for Science Teachers, Kassel
Friday 11th Sept, 2009

My dear colleague, and fellow Science Across the World team member, Egbert Weisheit invited me to come and visit Kassel, observe his work, offer a workshop and deliver a plenary.  I can't say no to Egbert!

Here's why.
First on the agenda was a visit to a school to observe a new teacher give a lesson on Mendel. Egbert is a teacher trainer and part of his work is to give feedback on lessons in preparation for teachers being examined on the road to qualified status. Fascinating fly on the wall opportunity for me to see how this works in practice in Germany.
The Albert Schweitzer Gymnasium, Kassel

The workshop flier and details

The next stop was at Egbert's school the Friedrichsgymnasium in Kassel where Egbert had arranged an open workshop on the theme of content and language integrated learning within the framework of the European Dimension in the curriculum.

It is such a delight to visit a place where you get to meet large groups of teachers all teaching their subjects through the medium of English. It’s great to see them all in one place at the same time. This is just what happened in Kassel, Germany at the 4th Bilingual Conference for Science Teachers.This was the third item on the busy visit agenda.

Conference flier and programme

Many thanks to Dr Mathias Bohn, deputy head of Christian Rauch-Schule, Bad Arolsen ( for organizing the event and for continuing to work hard to bring more and more teachers together.

[/userfiles/files/4Biliconf-Kass-OSC.JPG] at the conference

Egbert and Nigel Heslop of Association for Science Education in the UK

Colleagues in charge of conference administration report that there were 120 registrations at the event and 20 speakers.
I was invited to give a plenary talk with the inspiring theme of What’s going on in CLIL around the world today?

I know why my dear colleague and conference co-organizer Egbert Weisheit asked me to prepare on this theme.
The reason is simple.
Egbert felt that teachers need to have information about how foreign language-medium education is being delivered in other contexts, have news about approaches to language in FL content teaching, find out about problems and even failures in other countries, hear about other networks of teachers they might like to get in touch with and even join themselves.

Book browsing

Conference opens

There just isn’t very much effective communication or availability of information for teachers in Germany about ‘Bilinguale Unterricht’ or content and language integrated learning. There is little effective collaboration between the worlds of language education and content education in Germany. Surprising when you learn that ‘bilingual education’ is growing in popularity year on year amongst parents and students in Germany and there is strong demand for schools to offer such courses, as well as fierce competition for the places available in these schools among young people and their parents who want to get into them. This situation is all the more surprising when you consider that teachers graduate university with two specialisms and this may be a content subject and a foreign language, ideal material for an up-and-coming CLIL teacher.

Sadly bilingual education in Germany is not as developed as you might expect given the above circumstances. There are huge, possibly insurmountable issues to do with ‘territorial rights’ between the worlds of language education and ‘content’ education.
Thankfully though colleagues like Egbert Weisheit and Mathias Bohn are willing to face up to these problems in the way they do, find independent funding sources, bring teachers together and deal with all the practicalities of organization and manage to realise such important events as this one.

There were many young teachers in attendance

This event is the biggest event of its kind in Germany and the good news is that it’s getting bigger with each event, that more sponsors are showing interest, some sponsors offering continued support from event to event.
Particular thanks to GSK for their continued support (11 events so far).
I have to say thank you too to Macmillan for contributing to my travel expenses to the be able to attend and contribute to the event. Not only that, they also sent along a huge box of freebies which I know are useful for making a splash with groups of colleagues.


Nigel and Mathias Bohn share ideas

My usual approach is to offer a lottery for the prizes. In this case we had 6 Vocabulary Practice Series Books and CDs for Science and Geography. We had 3 free year subscriptions to the onestopclil website and we had 4 flash drives to give away.  Colleagues were also offered a voucher for a 50% reduction on the price of subscription to the onestopclil site. I sent around blank sheets of paper for colleagues to give their names and email addresses and I ‘stuck a pin in’ the  list to pick out our winners. I usually say to colleagues that they can participate in the lottery if they give permission for me to add them to our e-groups, and this includes the factworld forum in as well as registration to the onestopclil website. From 120 participants at the plenary 80 people gave their emails (one or two had written them twice, but we’ll assume they did that in error!). 80 out of 120 is a result!

The following is the handout I gave for colleagues to follow my presentation (you can download it here or at the foot of the page): 


What’s going on in CLIL today?
Keith Kelly (
CLIL - the focus on language for learning (what it is and how to access and activate it)
Europe: more literature and more debate
Uncovering CLIL, Mehisto, Frigols and Marsh (Estonia, Spain, Finland)
Discourse in CLIL, Dalton-Puffer (Austria)
Articles on, Ball, Clegg, Kelly, accumulative resources and information
More networks (electronic, institutional)
FACTWorld / Cafe CLIL
CLIL Cascade Network
Bilingual Education Platform (Manuel Lara)
Spain: well organized
Asturias network of 140 schools (Training and Resources Centre Oviedo - training, publications, networking) -
Basque plurilingual education -
Spanish Bilingual Project
More private provision
IB look at immersion - activate prior knowledge, scaffold, extend, identity
IB in the state sector (Lithuania) Didzdvario Gymnasium, Siauliai-
Colin Baker on bilingualism - 'Scaffolding'
CLIL is all about the scaffolding learning and supporting language
ZPD - Vygotsky (CLIL is helping learners move from their comfort zone)
Malaysia – scrap EMI (question is, what can replace English?) 
Phillipines – officially adopts a 'monoligual' approach to bilingualism (UNESCO)
Singapore – 40 years of plurilingual education
Middle East
Qatar - Science and Maths through English throughout the system
Oman - scoping survey 
UAE - EM Maths and Science
'ELLs' - Teaching Mathematics to English Language Learners (on OSC)
Texas -
South America
3rd Brazilian Bilingual Schools conference reports huge growth in private sector in Brazil

There are many grey areas, but there is now a clear foundation of literature and understanding of how language works in learning, that is one which reflects 'all language' (MTs and FL), is additive rather than subtractive and offers a plurilingual approach to language and learning. CLIL has come to be known as an umbrella term for any context where content and language are integrated in learning. This is a big concept to try to deal with, perhaps too big. CLIL is the practice of integrating content and language. It is the 'what' and the 'how' of learning curriculum material in a foreign language.

One of the perks is being able to get together with Nigel and Egbert!

The rest of the programme was packed with a host of science and language related topics.
It is testimony to the great work of Egbert and Mathias that they succeed in bringing so many teachers together despite obstacles and lack of support from the institutions of education in Germany. Bravo!
I, for one, will be back like a shot at the next opportunity.
In terms of follow up Egbert and I have already begun to recruit some of the new and young teachers working in Science in English to record their lessons. These recordings will be transcribed and the language analyzed and the results will be presented at the next conference in two years time. Watch this space!


Cornelsen CLIL materials 
I learnt from a colleague in Germany recently that Cornelsen have published new materials for their CLIL series.

If you go to, search for CLIL you'll get a catalogue of resources for different subjects.
It's in German, but easy to navigate.

It would be good to hear from anyone who uses the materials, let us know what you think about them.