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German/French education Bilingual teaching kicks off in secondary schools

Bilingual education is becoming more popular in Swiss schools, with German and French being used interchangeably in some subjects such as maths and history.

The city of Biel/Bienne in canton Bern was a pioneer in bilingual teaching, probably because 60% of its inhabitants speak German, and 40%, French. In 2010, the city started a pilot bilingual programme in its primary schools that was considered so successful that has now been transferred to the first year of secondary school. As the new term gets underway, six new bilingual classes are envisioned at the former grammar school in Alpenstrasse, funded jointly by the city and the canton.

In Neuchâtel, where 600 pupils are taught in both languages, there has been a bilingual programme since 2011. The canton started off with 4 classes in its schools. Now there are 30. The canton of Fribourg also offers bilingual classes in some of its schools. At one school, an attempt to start a bilingual programme was put on ice due to a lack of support among pupils. 

In this report from Swiss Public Television, RTS, pupils and teachers talk about the benefits and challenges of teaching in this way.


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