KOALA - language competences and cognitive skills in multilingual schools
KOALA (KOordnierte ALphabetisierung im Anfangsunterricht – coordinated literacy in elementary instruction) is an innovative concept of linking literacy and multilingual competences, which has been introduced in primary schools in several German Länder. In Nordrhein-Westfalen the methodology is gradually being expanded and adapted to the changing learner populations in the cities.
In many big cities in Germany, the share of children with immigrant background in primary schools is 50% or more. The KOALA approach taps on the natural multilingualism of these children, turning into an advantage what is mostly perceived as an obstacle, the fact that many pupils have another family language than the language of instruction.
The KOALA teaching methodology is continuously developed further, it does not stop with the achievement of reading and writing skills and is linked to other forms of coordinated learning of the migrant language and German. The concept is in line with the requirement of the European Council of Barcelona 2002, calling for teaching two languages in addition to the mother tongue.
KOALA consists in teaching literacy and other subjects in both German and the family language of children with migrant background. The experience gathered so far is predominantly built on the integration of Turkish but the concept can be applied to any language. Assessments show that pupils taught according to the KOALA method achieve good writing and reading skills in both languages and better ones in German than their counterparts who had been taught literacy only in German. The other advantages of KOALA include a positive image of the language and culture of origin, helping the pupil to develop a positive self-perception, a contrastive treatment of both languages, fostering language and cultural awareness and the involvement of parents with migrant background.
The additional costs for the schools are mainly linked to the recruitment of teaching staff both of German and migrant origin.