10. January 2024
Campus Melaten is growing and growing: in mid-December, a bilingual elementary school moved into the Montessori kindergarten building on Campus Boulevard. Around 50 children will be taught there in future. We spoke to Margot Wiß, Managing Director of Vincerola GmbH, about bilingual teaching, the unique concept for Aachen and the long-term goals for the elementary school.
Ms. Wiß, Within a short period of time, a second floor was added to the building on Campus Boulevard 60, into which a bilingual elementary school moved in mid-December 2023.
That is correct. We planned a year in advance and the construction took around six months. There are currently still minor construction sites in the building, but we are optimistic that all the work in and around the building will be completed by mid-January 2024 and we will reach a “normal state”.
What motivated you to set up a bilingual school on Campus Melaten?
Many parents would like to send their children to a bilingual elementary school – if the opportunity existed. For some parents, it is necessary for their children to attend a bilingual elementary school because they come from abroad and want their children to be taught in English. We have some children in our daycare center and elementary school who were born in Brazil, Pakistan, Peru or other countries. Often their mother tongue or second language is English. These children find it difficult to follow the content in monolingual German elementary school. So the parents travel to Maastricht, Cologne or Neuss to have their children taught bilingually or in English because there was simply no elementary school with a bilingual branch in Aachen. We wanted to change that.

Added to this is the generally growing interest in multilingual education. We now know that the early acquisition of a second language stimulates and enriches children’s overall development. It is our wish that children who have attended a bilingual nursery can also attend a bilingual elementary school, so that the language skills that the children have acquired in nursery do not disappear again. Thanks to the development of our elementary school, children can now be taught bilingually in German and English from nursery through our elementary school to secondary school.

The Kaiser-Karls-Gymnasium, for example, offers enhanced English lessons in Years 5 and 6 and bilingual subject lessons from Year 7 onwards. A bilingual Abitur is also possible there. However, there are other grammar schools in Aachen with bilingual teaching areas.

You have been running a bilingual daycare center on Campus Melaten since 2012.
The daycare center consists of five groups with a total of almost 100 children. There are no lessons in the daycare center, but rather a so-called “immersion”, which, in contrast to other language learning methods, does not involve the strict memorization of grammar, vocabulary and syntax. It is exciting to observe how the children ask each other questions in English or German and answer them in their preferred language. That is one thing we want to achieve: That a bilingual communication skill develops.
How many classes does the elementary school have?
We are half an elementary school because we have two classes: 1-2 and 3-4. If it becomes necessary one day, we have the option of turning the current all-day section into another class. Initially, we started with around 50 pupils and four teachers.
How are bilingual lessons organized?
At school, German and English are taught by two immersion teachers. The so-called “main language” of a teaching unit depends on which teacher is teaching. As a rule, one teacher and one assistant are present in the classes, so that there is usually one English and one German-speaking person in the classroom. The children speak to each other in the current language of instruction and, if necessary, in the “other” language. The dominant child in the group usually sets the tone. However, the language exchange between the children always works well.
What concept do you pursue with the Vincerola facilities?
Basically, we follow the concept of Montessori education, which is now over 100 years old. Montessori education is pragmatic and child-friendly; it not only educates children intellectually, but also encourages them to think with the help of images or points of reference in their heads. We therefore teach many things situationally: exercises from everyday life and fine motor exercises that enable the children to better implement basic techniques in elementary school. Our teachers and educators bring a lot of patience to the table, because they need to reinforce and encourage the children to learn independently. The guiding principle here is the Montessori principle “Help me to do it myself”.
What are your long-term goals for the elementary school?
All children who are taught in our school should be motivated to learn and eager to continue their education and should be well equipped to open many doors for them. For example, children who move back abroad with their parents and attend bilingual schools there or pupils who later want to live, learn or study abroad. This is another reason why we have deliberately opted for Montessori education: So that after their time with us, whether in nursery or elementary school, children have the opportunity to transfer to a school system they are familiar with at home or abroad. A fixed pedagogical repertoire with Montessori materials and bilingual learning content gives the children a great deal of security. Montessori pedagogy and bilingualism are therefore two important pillars for us.

At school, we also incorporate many aspects of the so-called “IB-PYP”, i.e. the “IB-Primary Years Program”, a curriculum for international schools. As an alternative school, we integrate these approaches into the regular NRW curriculum. We have the same status as a state school, are subject to school supervision and are partially refinanced by the state.

We are currently integrating ourselves into the Aachen school world with regard to school management conferences, meetings with other school management teams and the municipal education authority. Our wish is to network even more with other schools in the future and to enrich the Aachen school landscape with our profile as a bilingual, international school.

What makes your daycare center and school so special compared to other daycare centers and schools?
The fact that we provide the best possible support for working parents. We take the pressure off parents when it comes to early support in various areas, such as learning to swim, early musical education and learning foreign languages. We have integrated this into the curriculum in both our daycare centers and our elementary school. We therefore try to cover various topics that can put parents under time pressure and allow families to spend more free time together. In cooperation with a tennis club and a soccer club, we also establish links with sports clubs in order to teach children to enjoy sports together at an early age.

Although there are no lessons during the vacations, there is almost continuous care: we are only closed for three weeks during the summer vacations and between Christmas and New Year – otherwise the children are looked after all year round, for example in sports or art camps. Another special feature is that our doors are open from 7 am to 6 pm for both nursery and primary school children. This allows us to offer parents a great deal of flexibility.

Campus GmbH

Cornelius Steffen and Margot Wiß, Managing Directors of the “Aachen International Primary School” are delighted with the successful start of the school in the new premises.
We also work closely with universities that scientifically evaluate various educational content. For example, we regularly evaluate the English language progress of pre-school children using the ELIAS test from the Department of English Studies at the University of Cologne. There are also ERASMUS collaborations with Munster University in Cork and the College Príncipe Felipe in Madrid. Educational science students regularly complete three-month internships at our facilities in their final year of study. In addition, we offer several dual study places in cooperation with the European University of Applied Sciences and the IU International University, among others, and train educators in all our facilities.
Why is Campus Melaten a good location for a daycare center and elementary school?
Our daycare center moved to Campus Melaten in 2012. At the time, we were delighted to be able to move into the site. It was a long process, during which we received a lot of support. Campus Melaten is an ideal location for us because many parents work at the UK Aachen or in the institutes on Campus Melaten: Fraunhofer ILT, Fraunhofer IPT or in the Centers of the RWTH Aachen Campus – to name just a few. Parents can drop their children off on the way to work and pick them up again immediately afterwards, which reduces the time pressure of long journeys.