The German language will be taught in over 1,090 Kendriya Vidyalaya schools by 2017.

When I was young, French was the only foreign language on offer in my high school and college.

Today’s students have as many as nine foreign languages to choose from: Arabic, French, German, Mandarin, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Tibetan. Various universities across the country such as M.S. University of Baroda, Kerala University and Mumbai University have been conducting credit and semester-based programmes in German Studies for several years now. Germany has been the most proactive in spearheading the study of its national language across India.

“Studying German is easy for Indians who are multilingual. ” says Herr Bernhard Steinrucke, Director General of the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce (IGCC).

Promoting ties

In April, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met the Kendriya Vidyalaya, Tughlakabad (Second Shift) winners of the 'Germany in my mind' competition and encouraged them in their choice to learn German.

It was, the best impetus for students and teachers involved in the ‘Deutsch an 1000 Schulen’ (German in 1,000 Schools) milestone programme initiated by the German Foreign Office with the aim of introducing German as a foreign language in all the 1,090 plus KV schools across India by 2017.

Both Heads of State signed a Joint Declaration agreeing to further increase their support for German teaching in Indian schools. The German Foreign Office announced project funding to the tune of 1.35 million Euros with additional incentives for the students.

Currently, German is taught as a third language in many institutions offering IB and IGCSE programmes, apart from KV schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which has drawn up a new curriculum for classes XI and XII.

The Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghatan is assisted by the Goethe Institute with whom it signed an MOU in 2009. MMB Mumbai Director Dr. Marla Stukenberg says that the institute also provides organisational and academic support to partner institutions that offer German as a foreign language in the curriculum.

“Around 300 KV schools are participating in the project which feeds into a long-term specific focus on recruiting international talent in the areas of maths, IT, natural sciences and technology,” according to a member of the TU9, a group comprising nine of Germany's top technical universities and the Goethe Institute.

Naturally, the German Ambassador Michael Steiner has been showing a keen interest in the functioning of the project and has met the staff and students at KV-IIT schools in Chennai and Mumbai as well as KVs in Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir and Leh. In Mumbai, Ambassador Steiner observed, “Language and education connect societies. Foreign languages are an asset. They are the ticket to go global. This is why, together with the Indian Government, we are fostering the programme as a bridge between Germany and India at the grassroots level.”

Placements

Proficiency in German will benefit students, professionals, engineering, and hospitality and aviation personnel, and even home makers who want to work part or full-time. Students from Mumbai University's Department of German get the opportunity to pursue studies at German and Austrian Universities under various academic exchange programmes. Post graduate students can engage in research work at the Department itself or at German and Austrian universities. Best of all, Indian students need not pay for higher education in Germany! (They only have to pay for board and lodging and even this could be covered by the generous scholarships on offer from German universities.)

The challenge for Mrs. Jyotsna Bhide, Deutsch an 1000 Schulen Project Coordinator (Western India), is identifying and locating qualified teachers to serve the KVS network.

Later this month, 45 teachers with a Bachelor's degree in German from universities in West India will be in Mumbai for a 30-day advanced-training course. Around the same time, Mrs. Bhide and 19 teachers from all over India will fly to Germany for a two-week training stint.

Pune alone has 200 German companies and the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce's Training Centre boasts of an impressive 100 per cent placement record with students working in managerial positions with their training companies for wages ranging from Rs. 3.50 lakh p.a. (for freshers) to Rs. 7.50 lakh p.a.( for lateral recruits).

At present, IGTC has 700+ successful alumni in different countries around the world. So impressive is the IGTC's track record that the Federal Ministry of Education and Research Germany for the first time awarded a Certificate of Recognition for outstanding achievements to a graduate student and an alumna trained in the unique German Dual Education System: Ashwin Jayaraman (topper, batch 2011-2013 and winner of Dr. Günter Krüger Award for Excellence) and Sushmita Datta, Business Unit Head, Lanxess (I) Pvt. Ltd. (batch 2000-2002).

There are plans to involve Indian and German companies in the Deutsch an 1000 Schulen Project and work with future partners. Prominent among the latter are the Ministry for Education and Culture, Baden Württemberg and Heidelberg University which have signed MoUs with the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan.