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Partners for tomorrow

The first meeting of international PASCH alumni in Berlin.

© PASCH - PASCH-Alumni in Berlin

Burkina Faso, Mongolia, Brazil – former school students have travelled from all over the world to spend two days together in Berlin. In joint workshops they aim to exchange their ideas on better ways for alumni to remain in contact, and the best ideas, which were already submitted in advance within the framework of a competition, are to be honoured. Most of the alumni do not know each other yet, but they all have one thing in common: they attended a PASCH school – one of 1,800 schools in 120 countries that today belong to the initiative called Schools: Partners for the Future (PASCH). The teaching of German plays a special role in these schools. That’s why it is no surprise to find that German and not English is spoken during the alumni meeting in Berlin.

“It’s totally great to be here,” says Luana Misi Lopes from Brazil. “Something immediately connects us here: we have all learned German, and many have then succeeded in coming to Germany to study. I feel totally understood within this group.” It is the first time that graduates of PASCH schools have met in this way. In all, 120 young people from 43 countries are thinking about ways of strengthening the alumni network. They are all sitting in a large room, divided up into small groups. They write their ideas down on large sheets of paper. Most of them are working on online solutions. How can we pass our knowledge on to the next generation? What materials can we produce? And what is the best way of keeping in contact ourselves?

But the alumni should also provide feedback about what has happened to them personally – whether the PASCH school prepared them adequately for their lives after leaving school.

More schools want to become part of the PASCH network

Federal Foreign Steinmeier launched the PASCH initiative in 2008 – and it is being realised by the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA), the Goethe-Institut, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Educational Exchange Service (PAD). Initially there were roughly 500 partner schools; today there are over 1,800. Some 600,000 students are now learning German at PASCH schools. PASCH schools commit themselves to firmly anchoring the German language in their curricula and appointing teachers who teach German and undergo continuous in-service training. “It is important to us that a PASCH school fulfils a beacon function and has a positive influence on other schools in the region,” says Heike Uhlig, Director of the Language Department at the Goethe-Institut. “That’s already functioning very well. As a result, other schools see that it’s worth offering German.” More and more schools around the world want to offer German and become PASCH schools. “The demand is very high, but our resources are limited,” says Uhlig.

PASCH schools can award two scholarships a year to students who are allowed to travel to Germany for a youth course. Many of the alumni who are attending the event in Berlin already visited Germany for a youth course. That also applies to Kokou Hlomewu, who is 19 years old and comes from Togo. He enjoys remembering his first visit to Germany. “There were so many nice people from all over the world there. It was super!” The scholarship for the youth course is one important element of the programme. That is also demonstrated by a poster in the meeting room on which alumni have shared their memories. It says “Friends for life” and “I will remember this trip all my life!”.

Many alumni study in Germany

Most of the PASCH school graduates return to Germany, occasionally also for a longer stay. Luis Oehme from Bolivia wants to complete a vocational training programme as an industrial management assistant in Dortmund, Maryna Mikhalchuk from Belarus is studying theatre studies in Munich and Luana Misi Lopes from Brazil has enrolled in a business administration programme in Berlin. “It was hard at the beginning,” says Luana Misi Lopes. “You’re very much alone here, far away from your family, and you have to study in a foreign language. But eventually you stand more firmly on your own two feet than you did before, and you have the feeling there are no more limits, you can do everything.”

If everything works as it has for the alumni at the meeting in Berlin, then Joachim Lauer, Director of the Central Agency for Schools Abroad, knows that the PASCH project will be a success. “The young people should gain the feeling that our support equips them for their studies in Germany. If they successfully complete their studies, we can be sure that we laid the right foundations.”

The alumni want to improve the networking between them and pass on advice to the next generation so that younger students will have an easier time and can benefit from their experience. The alumni had already puzzled over what a stronger network could look like during the last few weeks. Maryna Mikhalchuk from Belarus, for example, had the idea of setting up a couchsurfing platform only for PASCH alumni. “All young people enjoy travelling,” she says. “We would certainly network well in this way.” For her idea she has won a prize in the competition for Alumni Project of the Year. So did groups led by Kokou Hlomewu from Togo and Dulguun Batmunkh from Mongolia. Both want to realise events in their home countries: one on the subject of migration and the other on the German language. Each winner receives 2,000 euros. “We would like them to maintain ties with us,” says Heike Jantsch, Deputy Head of Section German Language Network and PASCH at the Federal Foreign Office, “because they are our Partners for the Future.” 

You can find out more about the winners of the PASCH alumni project here