Intercultural Learning at Primary Level

An Evaluation of the Schoolbook "Bumblebee" and the guidelines for English in NRW

Term Paper, 2005

15 Pages, Grade: 2,3



1. Introduction

2. Official demands on intercultural learning
2.1 The general guidelines
2.2 The specific guidelines for English

3. Aspects of intercultural learning in the Bumblebee textbooks
3.1 Criteria of the examination
3.2 Analysis of Book 3
3.3 Analysis of Book 4
3.4 Evaluation of the findings

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

1. Introduction

The discussion about aims, content and methods of foreign language lessons resulted in demands for a broader integration of intercultural learning. Jörg Roche, who dedicated one chapter of his book Interkulturelle Sprachdidaktik: Eine Einführung to the role of intercultural language didactics in the teaching and learning of foreign languages, makes specific suggestions about restructuring the traditional concepts of foreign language lessons. According to him, the best learning success is achieved when intercultural learning and foreign language teaching are integrated. He explains conclusively that language and culture are inseparably bound to one another. Roche also warns not to use isolated or poorly researched pieces of cultural information, since this would lead to a falsified image of the target culture and prevent the learners from authentic language use.

Roche’s appeal illustrates the growing need of intercultural communication. Young pupils in Germany do not only live in a country that maintains contact with cultures all over the world, but they are also part of a multicultural society that is mirrored by the school classes. Foreign language lessons offer the opportunity to help them deal with it and prepare them for living in a multicultural society. After the introduction of English as a foreign language as an obligatory school subject in the classes 3 and 4 of the primary schools in 2003, it is now possible for the young learners in Germany to exhaust their enormous language learning potential more effectively. However, how they should be taught, and what exactly, is still discussed extensively.

The new school subject made it necessary to develop a new curriculum and new school books, which were supposed to meet the needs of the young foreign language learners and the conditions of the guidelines. Considering the textbooks Bumblebee 3 and Bumblebee 4 (Schroedel 2003) as examples, this paper examines in how far the school books concur with the regulations concerning intercultural learning. Of course, school books do not solely represent what is taught in the lessons; the way the teachers uses them and what they teach additionally must also be regarded for that. Yet, the books play a central role in the lessons. Tasks, content and especially the illustrations have much influence on how the lessons are perceived by the pupils. Furthermore, the pupils can take the books home where they can work autonomously.

At first, I want to summarize what regulations the curriculum of the federal state of North-Rhine Westphalia imposes on the teaching of English at primary level concerning intercultural learning. Then I want to introduce the Bumblebee textbooks and examine how they deal with intercultural aspects. Finally, there will be a conclusion where the findings will be weighed up and compared to the demands of Jörg Roche and the curriculum.

2. Official demands on intercultural learning

2.1 The general guidelines

Before I am going to examine the school books, I want to look at the prerequisites they have to fulfil. The current curriculum for English at primary level in North-Rhine Westphalia, which came into force on August 1st, 2003, is just a provisional one. Although it is explicitly called binding, it also says that it is only meant to provide the guidelines for a test phase of four years. The general guidelines, which precede the specific ones for English, already contain both explicit and implicit remarks on intercultural aspects of school education.

Even before the actual guidelines there is a quotation of article 7 of the constitution of the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, which was introduced in 1950. It gives insight into the most basic principles the guidelines have to follow. It says among other things that the children were to be educated to respect their fellow human beings and their beliefs, and to hold the community of nations in high regard. The demands have not lost their relevance. In fact, this is a very prominent aim of intercultural learning, concerning the high grade of multiethnicity of the children’s environment. Article 7 also says that the children from North-Rhine Westphalia were to be taught to love their environment, their people and their country. Considering that they first have to learn about these things before they can love it, this is an aim of intercultural learning, too.

In the main part of the general guidelines both the declarations and the concept how to meet them are explained in greater detail. In this context, Intercultural education is explicitly mentioned as one element of the social and pedagogical education alongside political education, environmental consciousness, non-violence and other basic sociocultural facets.

In point three, ‘Diversity as Chance and Challenge’, are multiethnicity and heterogeneity among the children the first time regarded explicitly. It takes those features as welcome opportunity and says that they were to be treated as a chance for the children to learn in a diverse community. However, a subsidiary point adds that this is associated with special care and demands special devotion from the teacher.

The point ‘Educational teaching’, which is a subsidiary point of ‘Teaching and learning at Primary Level’, explains that the teachers are asked to educate their pupils on showing solidarity and social responsibility within the ‘One World’. The striking term ‘One World’ makes clear that both the teachers and the pupils are supposed to respect all children and their cultures equally.

2.2 The specific guidelines for English

Also the specific guidelines for English include intercultural learning in many ways. Actually, all main points, except the one about performance assessment, speak explicitly about integrating intercultural learning into the lessons. The first point, ‘Tasks of the Subject English’, states that one task of the English lessons is to evoke the children’s joy and interest in the learning of a foreign language and in getting to know foreign cultures. Alongside intercultural learning, they are trained in ‘language’ and ‘language learning’ in order to achieve this. That way, the pupils are supposed to acquire not only knowledge about the target language and language learning itself, but also about the environment of the children in English speaking countries. It is assumed that by learning about a foreign language and its culture the pupils adopt an attitude of openness and curiosity towards the respective people. This is supposed to help them reflect on their own experiences and attitudes.

The second point, ‘Learning and Teaching’, points out that among other aspects authenticity is one important feature that is supposed to grant insight into the foreign culture. In the English lessons, situations, vocabulary and language structures have to form a realistic image of the target culture. This is picked up in point three, ‘Fields of Experience, and Subject Domains’. Here it is explained that the pupils learn to communicate predominantly orally by treating ‘fields of experience’ that arise from their own environment. One of the ‘fields of experience’ is ‘at home here and there’. In this area, the pupils train the use of the foreign language by comparing their own situation with the life of the foreign children.

Point 3.2.2 is an explanation of what is understood by intercultural learning. It mainly explicates the ideas that were already presented in this context. By intercultural learning is meant getting to know the foreign culture and ways of life and by that discovering parallels and differences. Talking about the multicultural environment of the foreign children, the German pupils become more aware of their own heterogeneous community and learn tolerance and openness. Since it is difficult to offer direct experience with the foreign culture, it is very important to use authentic material. However, exchange projects and contact via email are suggested as ways of direct contact.

What is expected of the children to have learned before they leave the primary level is explained in point 4, ‘Binding Demands’. The guidelines point out that the children must have acquired certain ‘abilities and skills’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘attitudes and views’. Alongside language, language learning and working techniques, the field ‘knowledge’ also contains aspects of intercultural learning. Thus, the school-leavers are supposed to know how to acquire basic information about the environment of pupils in English speaking countries. ‘Attitudes and views’ includes not only interest in the learning of English and foreign languages in general, but also openness and curiosity towards their ways of living, attitudes and customs.


Excerpt out of 15 pages


Intercultural Learning at Primary Level
An Evaluation of the Schoolbook "Bumblebee" and the guidelines for English in NRW
Bielefeld University
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
421 KB
Intercultural, Learning, Primary, Level, Grundschule, Englisch, Englischunterricht, Unterricht, Interkulturelles Lernen
Quote paper
Sebastian Heinrichs (Author), 2005, Intercultural Learning at Primary Level, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Intercultural Learning at Primary Level

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free