Phorms supports new bilingual subject ‘PolECule’

The Goethe University Frankfurt, together with Phorms Taunus Campus, plans to develop a curriculum for an innovative bilingual German–English subject called ‘Politics, Economics and Culture’


‘In a highly internationalised society, young people require economic, political and cultural skills – as this is the only way they can turn their life plans into reality,’ says Daniela Elsner, Professor of Educational Theory and Language Teaching Research at Goethe University Frankfurt. Together with Tim Engartner, Professor of Education Theory in Social Sciences, she aims to develop a new bilingual German–English curriculum for a new subject in Hesse known as PolECule – short for ‘Politics, Economics and Culture’.

‘With this innovative bilingual subject, students in year 6 and higher will be able to look beyond the borders of Germany and acquire European-level competencies,’ explain the academics. As things stand, students in Hesse gain economic and political knowledge in the subject of politics and economics. In the professors’ opinion, however, this subject lacks a core concept. ‘PolECule, on the other hand, will have more real-life relevance and will include cultural factors,’ explains Elsner.

They claim that there are very few teaching materials that take into account cultural differences between the Anglo– American world and Germany.


Another feature of PolECule is that – thanks to the teaching language of English – it combines language learning with a content-based subject. In English, bilingual content subjects are referred to using the term CLIL (content and language integrated learning). An objective of CLIL teaching is to enable the students to discuss, at an early stage, the subject content in both languages – namely, in the target language as well as in their mother tongue.

Initial research findings in this area show that learning is enhanced, in terms of both language and subject content, when students tackle new material in two languages from the outset. ‘The unknown terms in both languages link with each other and reinforce each other’s presence in the learner’s mental lexicon; experts call this “deep learning,”’ explain the two professors.

The research findings of the project PolECule are expected to be trialled in 2017 in the classrooms of the Heinrich-von-Gagern-Gymnasium, the Phorms Campus Frankfurt Taunus, the new Gymnasium Frankfurt-Nied and the Heinrich-Heine-Gesamtschule.

The original idea for the subject came from Michael Gehrig, head of school of the Phorms schools in Frankfurt. ‘Students have to be able to both analyse poems and identify and assess economic processes in German and English,’ he says. During the three-year partnership with Goethe University, Phorms will compile the German glossary of specialist terms. ‘Other schools will provide the English glossary, meaning that all participating students will be familiar with the terms in both languages,’ continues Gehrig.

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