ZfA Consultants Conference in Bonn
The Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA) invited over 70 ZfA consultants and professional advisors attend its annual conference in Bonn from 22-26 February. Along with topics such as foreign languages and continuing education didactics, quality assurance in German teaching and the language diploma programme were the main focus.
The consultants and professional advisors serve the approximately 1,100 language diploma schools across the world that provide enhanced German teaching and run the German Language Diploma (DSD) of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs. For the third time, the conference was also attended by the DSD programme directors and managers, who are now responsible for the local organisation of the DSD in eight German federal states.
International experience also a national necessity
To begin with, Wolf Schwerdtfeger, Vice President of the Federal Office of Administration paid tribute to the consultants and professional advisors. He said that they were employed by the Federal Office of Administration in sometimes politically sensitive areas and had successfully handled increasingly complex tasks in the process. This was followed by Joachim Lauer, Head of the ZfA, who concluded:
"The consultants and professional advisors perform a key role for the ZfA with the running of the German Language Diploma (DSD). I congratulate you on the way the German Language Diploma has developed since it started over 40 years ago. This is your success story!"
Dorothée Bauni, Regional Chairperson of the Bund-Länder-Committee for School Education Abroad (BLASchA) stressed that, along with the procurement of language skills, the DSD programme is also about gaining an understanding of Germany and its culture, literature and society. She added that the know-how, vision and alternative perspective of the consultants and professional advisors were also urgently required at local national level.
Transfer of value systems
Whether Hungary, Vietnam or Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: Three teachers gave the attendees a detailed insight into the multi-facetted world of the DSD programme, which, despite having the same test-methodology requirements, must always be implemented differently at regional level. In Hungary, the DSD is already established with 38 accredited schools and a further 10 schools in the pipeline, meaning that some head teachers have already started to deliver the programme to their pupils using local teachers with DSD experience, according to Heinrich Heinrichsen, Consultant in Budapest. In addition, there is already a big demand in Hungary for the DSD I PRO vocational teaching examination which will be implemented for the first time in 2017 in Poland.
Consultant Andrea Kunze from Hanoi provided an insight into the DSD programme in Vietnam which is still in the development stage. According to this consultant, there is great local interest in Vietnam. For many pupils, the prospect of studying in Germany is a big incentive. For local teachers, the DSD is not only about sharing the German language but also a new value system. This also includes a modern perception of women.
Dr. Margit Maronde-Heyl, DSD Programme Director for Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, gave an insight into the DSD examinations in her local federal state. In her eyes, a particular challenge is represented by the varying educational levels and existing knowledge of the pupils within the beginner classes of migrant children who are preparing for the DSD I examination and entry into the regular curriculum.
This year, the conference’s main pedagogical theme was the methodology of further education and its use within the DSD programme. There was a particular focus on the following key areas of this work: academic and professional orientation and the new associated examination format within the DSD I PRO (A2/B1) vocational field, school-based work plans and GFL teaching mechanisms. Cooperation with local cultural mediators, administrative issues and personnel management including practical examples from individual countries completed the programme.
Also seen as important was the need for dialogue with the representatives of the different federal states, cooperation with other partners from the field of foreign cultural and educational policy, as well as communication with contact persons within the ZfA.
"With intensive networking, we want to reinforce the role of the consultants and professional advisors", said Heike Toledo, head of division for the German Language Diploma/German as a Foreign Language, who was responsible for the conference.