GET Across Borders Program of Mainz University wins "Committed to Uniqueness 2015" award from the German Academic Exchange Service

Internationalization of teacher training at Johannes Gutenberg University to serve as role model


Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) offers students in the English Teacher Training for Secondary Schools degree program the opportunity to undertake six months training at a Scottish school. Launched by PD Dr. Sigrid Rieuwerts about two years ago with the support of Scotland's National Centre for Languages (SCILT) and the German Consulate General in Edinburgh, the German Educational Trainees (GET) Across Borders program facilitates placements for up to 25 JGU students each year to teach at Scottish schools. The excellent overall concept and professional execution of the program has now won the 2015 Committed to Uniqueness (COM2UNI) award from the German Academic Exchange Service, which was awarded today during a ceremony held at the Erasmus+ annual convention at Humboldt University in Berlin. The prize is awarded to exemplary projects that support mobility in the teaching, medicine, and law degree programs and create both the appropriate mobility window and the motivation for students to spend time abroad as part of their studies. "The award serves as both recognition and motivation," emphasizes PD Dr. Sigrid Rieuwerts from the Department of English and Linguistics at JGU. "The GET program not only makes it easier for students to find a school in English-speaking countries, it also helps provide a high-quality, partially financed stay abroad which is relevant to the students' future profession. The intercultural experience the program provides is important to both the university students and the school pupils in Scotland as it helps them become global citizens." The prize money of EUR 7,500 will be used to develop the program even further. Plans are afoot to have schools in Rhineland-Palatinate benefit from Scottish language assistants, an initiative which will foster intercultural learning and teaching.

Following the first successful attempts to place Mainz University students in Scottish schools during the 2012/2013 school year, the GET Across Borders program was officially launched in coordination and collaboration with the German Consulate General in Edinburgh in November 2013. The German teaching degree students serve as guest teachers at state schools in Scotland for six months, teaching their pupils about German language, culture and history as well as the country’s customs and traditions. At the same time, they use the maximum of 16 hours a week teaching within the Scottish school system to hone their own professional instructional capabilities and to enhance their language, intercultural, and social skills. "An important factor for us is to provide support to our trainees all the way from their application to their return to Germany," said PD Dr. Sigrid Rieuwerts. "In doing so, we work closely with the EU Service Point and the International Office at Mainz University in finding scholarships for our students, we utilize existing administrative structures in Mainz and Scotland, and we offer our trainees intercultural preparatory courses along with the opportunity to interact with former GET participants." The GET participants also take part in orientation events and receive support from the Goethe Institute Glasgow, Scotland's National Centre for Languages, the Scottish Councils, and the German Consulate General in Edinburgh.

"Internationalization and increasing the mobility of students and academics is a key goal at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. That is why we are keen to offer our students international exchange opportunities and support them in the organization and financing of stays abroad," emphasized Professor Georg Krausch, President of JGU. "Our university is the only one in Germany with a Center for Scottish Studies. It is therefore consistent that we use our close contacts with Scotland to internationalize our teacher training program. With the program we are making a valuable contribution to the long-term development of closer German-Scottish ties, to the fostering of German language and culture, and to the promotion of a modern image of Germany." Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz has now become the primary mediator and contact for Scottish school authorities thanks to the GET program and also helps arrange exchanges for students at the universities of Koblenz-Landau and Leipzig.

The GET program has already become a role model. Plans are being drawn up to spread the program to other languages and partnerships by utilizing the numerous EU partnerships at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.. Furthermore, the exchange program has found imitators in Scotland as well. PD Dr. Sigrid Rieuwerts has received requests from SCILT to help with a PET program to bring Portuguese foreign language teachers to Scottish schools. The organizers are also working to enhance the mobility of Scottish teaching degree students and have made it possible for students of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow to host classes at schools in Mainz.