Some young Ukrainians in Hesse lack a second foreign language for high school. You have to forego your high school diploma for the time being. This is set to change with a nationwide, unique offer.

Hesse says it wants to be the first federal state to introduce Ukrainian as a second foreign language in schools. On the one hand, the background is the competition for future specialists and teachers, as the Ministry of Culture in Wiesbaden announced on Friday. On the other hand, young Ukrainian war refugees here often have to leave high school in favor of a secondary school due to a lack of a second foreign language and thus forego the Abitur. There are individual language offerings for Ukrainian in schools in other federal states, but not as a regular second foreign language.

Hesse’s Minister of Culture Armin Schwarz spoke of a “clear sign of solidarity” with Ukraine and European Minister Manfred Pentz (both CDU) spoke of a contribution to ensuring that Ukraine’s identity and culture were preserved. “We don’t want to uproot the Ukrainian refugees, we don’t want to cut them off from their homeland, we want to build a bridge for them to return to Ukraine,” emphasized Pentz. 

The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Oleksii Makeiev, described the new educational offer as “a recognition of Ukrainian as an important European language”. It will relieve the burden on young Ukrainian war refugees here “and set a good example for all other countries in Germany.”

According to the Ministry of Culture, around 20,000 students and more than 300 teachers live in Hesse after fleeing Ukraine. Apart from English, which is usually taught from primary school onwards as the first foreign language in the country invaded by Russia, young refugees here have to quickly learn German for all lessons. The ministry explained that the only possible second foreign language for the upper secondary school level would be Russian, which would be ruled out for most as the “language of the war enemy”.