Schoolchildren in one German state to study Ukrainian

The Hessian education ministry says it aims to help better integrate some 20,000 refugees currently residing in the region

The German state of Hesse, located in the west-central part of the country, has introduced Ukrainian as a second foreign language for the 2024-25 school year, the local Ministry of Education and Culture announced on its website on Friday.

While other German states offer individual courses in Ukrainian, it has so far not been taught as a foreign language in the country’s schools.

According to the ministry’s statement, the move aims to help integrate Ukrainian refugees currently living in the region, including some 20,000 students and 300 teachers.

“We want to offer the many young people and teachers from Ukraine even better educational and career prospects in line with their individual talents – also for the reconstruction of their own country – and send a clear signal of solidarity in these difficult times,” said Armin Schwarz, Hesse’s minister of education and culture.

The coming school year will be a trial period, Schwarz said, signaling that the addition of Ukrainian to the curriculum could become permanent. That will depend on the number of students who are interested in the language, as well as the willingness of each school to add it to its portfolio. Schwarz noted that students without prior knowledge of Ukrainian would also be welcome to choose it as a second foreign language.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Aleksey Makeev, thanked Hessian authorities for the “exemplary decision.”

“We see it as a recognition of Ukrainian as an important European language. This will serve to relieve the burden on our students… and will be a good example for all other German regions,” he stated.

Germany has been among the top EU destinations for Ukrainian refugees since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in February 2022. As of January this year, the country had received over 1.2 million people from Ukraine, roughly one fourth of the bloc’s total of an estimated 4.3 million, according to EU statistics.

Ukrainians flock to the region due to the temporary protection status introduced by the European Council at the onset of the conflict, which grants them the right to an extended visa-free stay, accommodation, medical care, employment, and education. The protection regime is currently in force until March 2025.