The beginnings - decline of German in Scotland
The spark that eventually led to the establishment of GET across borders was the recognition that the teaching and learning of the German language in Scotland were in a process of rapid and continuous decline. Against this background, the Scottish Government's Language Working Group published the report “A 1+2 Approach to Language Learning” in September 2011. This aimed to improve the conditions for the acquisition of foreign languages in Scottish schools. The report’s recommendations were to be implemented by the year 2020. These included specific recommendations that regular and intensive communication with native speakers should be part of the language learning process:
“…the Report recommends regular access to native and fluent speakers to stimulate young people’s interest in language learning and other cultures.” (Foreword: Language Learning in Scotland: A 1+2 Approach)
“The Working Group recommends that schools and local authorities consider the engagement by schools of other skilled and trained native speakers of additional languages to work under the direct and explicit supervision of the classroom teacher in schools.”
The launch of the Scottish Government's new language policy was a clear stimulus for the foundation of GET across borders, which has as its major aim to contribute to the spread of the, which has as its major aim to contribute to the spread of the German language in Scotland by means of sending German student teachers of English to Scottish schools.
GET across borders gains momentum
Following the first successful placements of our “trailblazers” to Scottish schools in the academic year of 2012/2013, “GET across borders” was officially launched in November 2013 by Priv.-Doz. Dr. habil. Sigrid Rieuwerts from the Department of English and Linguistics of the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz in close cooperation with the German Consulate General in Edinburgh.
In 2013/2014, GET across borders placed 10 student teachers from the University of Mainz, and 9 students from the University of Göttingen in Scottish schools.
The new exchange opportunity was enthusiastically taken up by the student teachers. Despite the fact that the GET programme was still in its development phase in December 2012, the number of applicants by far exceeded the quantity of available places.
In addition, the number of Scottish councils seeking to employ GETs has significantly increased since 2012. While the "trailblazers” of 2012/2013 were placed in 6 Councils, by 2014/2015 students had already had the choice between no less than 13 local authorities.
The success of GET across borders was recognised in 2015 when it was awarded the “Committed to Uniqueness” prize by the DAAD, as an exemplary university project contributing to the enhancement of student mobility.
Each year, about 20 to 25 places are reserved for students of the University of Mainz. The remaining placements are open to students from the Universities of Leipzig and Landau. As the number of places increases, we are also open to co-operation with further partner universities.
Expansion and networking across borders
Our programme has inspired others in Scotland to adopt the same principles. We were asked by Scotland's National Centre for Languages (SCILT) to support the establishment of the PET programme (“Portuguese Educational Trainees in Scottish Schools”).
We are also helping to raise the mobility of Scottish student teachers. We have enabled students of the University of Strathclyde to teach trial lessons at schools in Mainz, and we are currently setting up the SET programme (“Scottish Educational Trainees across borders”) in order to offer all future Scottish teachers the opportunity of a school internship in Germany.
Since April 2021, the Scotland Hub at Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz has been involved in an exciting new project, funded by DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) which will further strengthen the ties between Scotland and Rhineland-Palatine in the field of education. One of the central challenges of 21st-century classrooms is the socially and culturally diverse backgrounds of pupils, which future teachers need to understand in order to create modern and relevant learning environments.