The AfD state parliamentary group in NRW have requested that English language lessons in primary schools be cancelled from 2019 without replacement lessons, Die Welt reported on Thursday.
In a proposal to the state parliament, they refer to studies which show that learning English early on in school does not bring any significant advantages. Instead, according to the AfD, the state parliament should strengthen the German language and maths in primary schools.
Since 2013, English has been taught in NRW elementary schools from the third grade onward – since 2008 it’s been taught from the second half of the first grade.
The parliament's school committee will hear what experts have to say on the subject on February 21st. Statements which have already been made available indicate that experts are likely to reject the AfD’s proposal.
English lessons in primary schools have proven their worth, according to Dorothea Schäfer, chairwoman of the Education and Science Workers’ Union (GEW) and schoolteacher Prof. Susanne Thurn, who both emphasize that children have no other opportunity to learn the language in an optimal way.
“Young children have natural language learning potential,” said Thurn, who has been developing and testing concepts for English language learning among pupils for 40 years.
“The younger they are, the more confident they are in exchanging information, imitating the sound, rhythm and melody of the language – they also aren’t afraid to make mistakes,” Thurn added.
According to the professor, speech research shows that “at the age of about six years, a developmental stage is reached in which the number of nerve cell contacts is the highest it will ever be in life.”
Thurn further warned that this measure risks taking “a fatal step backwards” to a time when the Nazis “abolished early attempts at teaching foreign languages in mainstream schools in favour of fostering the German language and culture.”