Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 15. Nr. August 2004

8.1. Intercultural Education
HerausgeberIn | Editor | Éditeur: Susanne Binder/Mikael Luciak (Vienna)

Buch: Das Verbindende der Kulturen | Book: The Unifying Aspects of Cultures | Livre: Les points communs des cultures

The attitude of employees at kindergartens towards mono/bilingual kindergarten children - a survey in Austrian kindergartens

Gabriele Khan-Svik (Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for School Development and International-comparing School Research)


The motivation to do a study about the situation in kindergarten was that we couldn't find clear results on the influence of attending a kindergarten to the performances at school of migrants' children in two studies, carried out at Vienna primary schools (Olechowski et al. 2002, 2004). The kindergarten helps to improve the German language, which is very important at the beginning of primary school (6-year old children). One of our hypothesis was that there is an influence of using the mother-tongue in the kindergarten to the use of the mother-tongue afterwards. This hypothesis couldn't be tested, because only a small number of migrant children receives promotion of their first language in kindergarten.

Therefore it was necessary to get an answer to a very simple research question: Is there any promotion of migrants' languages in Austrian kindergartens, or is German the only language, which is used there?

I will explain, what the term "kindergarten" in Austria means: Children from six month till the age of six, when they start school, can attend a kindergarten. Contrary to "Vorschule" a more academically oriented educational program, which is optional in the last year before regular schooling, kindergarten is a pre-school program with very little academic requirements. Kindergartens are most often in separate buildings and are thus not integrated into the school house. Depending on the age of the children the size of the groups is between 12 and 20 children.

In the kindergarten there are four groups of employees:


2. The situation of migrant children in Austrian kindergartens

The rate of foreigners (people with non-Austrian citizenship) differs in the nine Austrian federal states (Bundesländer). The highest percentage is in Vienna - 16.2% - and the lowest in the Burgenland, a small federal state in the South-east of Austria, near Hungary - 4.2% (Bundesländer-Informationen 1999).

The first figure shows the percentage of children in the kindergartens. In the school-year 1999/2000 the average rate in whole Austria was approximately 12% foreign children in the kindergarten , 9% with a family background of migration. According to the rate of foreigners the highest percentage of foreign pupils is in Viennese kindergartens (approximately 18% including nearly 14% from families who speak another language than German), the lowest in the Burgenland (approximately 6%, including 5,7% with another familiy language than German). The rates of the other federal provinces are in between.

Figure 1: Foreign children in Austrian kindergartens (Source: Statistik Österreich 2000)

There is a severe problem with Austrian official statistics. They inquire into citizenship only, and there is no data about the family languages. Therefore, all children with another language than German, whose parents have received the Austrian citizenship, are not included.


3. The research questions

The aims of the study were

1. To get more information about bi/multilingual children in Austrian kindergartens;
2. to find out if there is a connection between the general attitude of employees at kindergartens towards mono- or multilingualism and their practice in the daily life at kindergarten;
3. to find out if and how the biographical and organisational conditions and the use of specific educational offers have an influence on employees actions or influence each other.

ad 1) Many studies verified a connection has to be assumed between what someone believes and what someone does (for example Aronson, 1992, p.295ff, Markefka 1995, p.61ff or Gogolin 1994, p.112f). This leads directly to hypothesis 1:

Hypothesis 1: There is a connection between the general attitude of employees at kindergartens towards mono- or multilingualism and their actions in the daily life at kindergarten.

ad 2) Only few investigations attend to attitudes towards foreign children in the German speaking area. If there are some, they are more oriented towards cultures than languages. (Unsöld 1978, Feil and Schönhammer 1983, Feil 1988, Diehm and Kodron 1990, Gogolin 1994) As there hardly exist any investigations on teachers' perceptions of bilingual children it is necessary to use a heuristic approach constructing explorative hypotheses.(1)

Because monolingual German-speaking employees have different experiences than bi/multilingual employees there was a difference expected in their general attitudes, too. These differences may have an influence on the usage of German or other languages in the daily practice in the kindergarten.

Hypothesis 2: German-speaking employees and bi/multilingual employees are different in their attitude towards languages - in supporting monolingualism on the one hand or multilingualism on the other.

If hypothesis 2 is correct than hypothesis 3 will be tested for each group separately.

Hypothesis 3: There is an intercorrelation between the educational practice in kindergartens - supporting monolingualism versus multilingualism - and some biographical details, the attendance of special trainings and institutional factors.


4. Design of the study

I used two questionnaires - one for the institution and the other one for the employees. These questionnaires were offered in German, Serbocroatian and Turkish.

Constructing the research instrument I took over some items from the general attitude scale from Gogolin (1994) and created scales to the actions at kindergarten everyday life. Modifying the questionnaires after three pretests and a validation by experts I sent them to the district administrations to pass them in kindergartens, which put the main emphasis on language education. Some of the questionnaires had been brought to selected kindergartens by members of the research group.

Why didn't I choose any kindergartens? Because exclusively persons should be asked who have contact to multilingual pupils or who are interested in the language, in other words, who have experiences in this topic.

From a total number of approximately 1.300 questionnaires I got more than 900 back from the employees and 199 back from the institutions. Because not all were filled in correctly, a total of 845 from the employees and 179 from the institutions could be used for statistical analysis. Unfortunately there were no responses from two federal states (Burgenland, Vorarlberg).

A technical tip: All informations about the statistical procedures, which have been used, are in the endnotes. For the main text it is not necessary to have any statistical knowledge.


5. Description of the sample

Table 1 shows the number of questionnaires I got back.

Table 1: Sample of kindergartens and employees

Kindergartens Employees
Vienna 34 177
Lower Austria 11 69
Upper Austria 7 44
Styria 66 282
Carinthia 28 114
Salzburg 12 49
Tyrol 20 82
total 178 817

In the sample the average percentage of children with another language than German was 30%, which is more than twice higher than the Austrian-wide average. That means that the selection of kindergartens with an special emphasis on language has been successful.

The average age of the employees was approximately 37 years and they worked at kindergartens for about 12 years. 91% answered that they are German-speaking, the biggest language groups of the other 9% (n=91) were Serbocroatian, Slovenian and Turkish speaking. 10 people were bilingual, one spoke even three languages.


6. Grouping of the variables to dimensions

The results of statistical analyses(2) were four dimensions of "general attitudes" and two dimensions of "practices in everyday life".(3)

General atttitudes:

dimension 1: strict preference of German/against any consideration of other languages
dimension 2: language proficiency and language joy
dimension 3: disconsertion, if someone uses another language/ascribing lingual deficits to persons, who use another language
dimension 4: against foreign language or mother tongue support from early on

Practices in everyday life:

dimension A: support of multilingualism
dimension B: demand/support of speaking in German

Hypothesis 1:

The following illustration (fig.2) shows the computation of the correlations(4) between all dimensions. In the sense of hypothesis 1 there is a clear positive correlation between the dimensions 1, 3, 4 and B and between the dimensions 2 and A (green lines). The red lines mean a negative correlation that a high value in one dimension is equivalent to a low value in another dimension.

Figure 2: Correlations between the dimensions

Because all results are very significant hypothesis 1 has to be accepted.

Hypothesis 2:

A comparison between the two groups(5) shows very significant differences, too. While German-speaking employees agree rather to demanding/promoting of German-speaking (near "2"; see fig.3) and reject the support of multilingualism ("1"; see fig.2), the response behaviour of bi/multilingual persons turned around.


Figure 3: Dimension A

Figure 4: Dimension B
"0" = I agree to dimension A (or B) completely, "1" = I agree to dimension A (or B), "2" = I disagrees with dimension A (or B), "4" = I disagree with dimension A (or B) completely.


For this reason the computations are accomplished separately into hypothesis 3 for both groups.

Hypothesis 3:

Because of the limited space only a few examples should be presented - the correlation between further education for children with another mother tongue and for foreign language support from early on.(6)

Figure 5: Examples of correlations between dimension A and further education - German-speaking employees

Fig.5 shows the correlations especially for the German-speaking employees. If they have attended further education for both fields (+) than the correlations are positive (green arrows) with dimension A (support of multilingualism), if they don't have any further education (-), than the correlations are negative.

Figure 6: Examples of correlations between dimension A and further education - bi/multilingual employees

In Fig.6 there are the results of the bi/multilingual employees. Dimension A correlates positive with further education for children with another mother tongue.(7) Not any statistical results could be found, if the employees had further education for foreign language support from early on.


7. Discussion

The represented results of the questionnaire collected in Austrian kindergartens can be summarized as follows:

Hypothesis 1:

A clear connection could be found between the general attitudes towards mono- versus multilingualism (dimensions 1 to 4) and the educational practice in the everyday life in kindergarten (dimensions A and B). Attitudes towards rejecting multilingualism (dimensions 1, 3 and 4) are connected closely with demand/promotion of German-speaking (dimension B), language proficiency and joy in languages (dimension 2) correlated high with supporting measures towards multilingualism (dimension A).

The question is if migrants' children need either promoting German or their mother-tongue? For their successful school career it would be necessary to get both: instruction in German and in the mother-tongue. While German as the school instruction language should be acquired as early as possible the continuous promotion in the first language should not be neglected.

The following two hypotheses must be answered more carefully, because they were formulated in an explorative manner.

Hypothesis 2:

It seems that persons set different educational actions due to their own different language experiences (on the on hand monolingualism versus bi/multilingualism, on the other knowledge of foreign languages: yes or no). Who is used to speak one language only, promotes rather monolingualism than those, who are used to speak more than one language.

Hypothesis 3:

In both dimensions of everyday practice ("support of multilingualism" versus "demand/promotion of German-speaking") as well as in both groups could be found intercorrelations to variables of special training and organizational basic conditions.

The conclusion is that, if the promotion of multilingualism in the kindergarten (and in the educational institutions following on) is seen as an educational and social aim, there are three options to choose:

1. Offering basic and further trainings in language education.
2. Organising smaller groups in the kindergartens.
3. Setting incentives that bi/multilingual children and personnel are integrated into the kindergarten; by that multilingualism could become the everyday experience for everyone.

© Gabriele Khan-Svik (Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for School Development and International-comparing School Research)


(1) Using an explorative design means to have another -level in the stastistical analyses. To minimize the -error has been adjusted into '' ('=; n=number of statistical procedures) (Bortz 1985, p.321f).
' of hypothesis 1 (15 configurations) - 1% (very significant): 0,0006698, 5% (significant): 0,00341371
' of hypothesis 2 and hypothesis 3 (2 configurations) - 1% (very significant): 0,02532057, 5% (significant): 0,00501256.

(2) All scales were examined by explorative factor analyses and proved by Rasch-analyses.

(3) General atttitudes: dimension 1: 12 items, Cronbach's =0,87; dimension 2: 6 items, Cronbach's =0,82; dimension 3: 6 items, Cronbach's =0,71; dimension 4: 3 items, Cronbach's =0,72; Practice in everyday life: dimension A: 6 items, Cronbach's =0,81; dimension B: 5 items, Cronbach's =0,65.

(4) The connection between the dimensions has been proved by Pearson's correlation coefficient. All correlations are very significant, the highest result is: p=0,00000000042. All other results of p are lower.

(5) T-test for independent samples: dimension A: p=0,000000063, dimension B: p=0,0000028.

(6) Correlation coefficient Eta: dimension Afurther education for children with another mother tongue: p=0,00003; dimension Afurther education for foreign language support from early on: p=0,004.

(7) Correlation coefficient Eta: dimension Afurther education for children with another mother tongue: p=0,00001.


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8.1. Intercultural Education

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For quotation purposes:
Gabriele Khan-Svik (Vienna): The attitude of employees at kindergartens towards mono/bilingual kindergarten children - a survey in Austrian kindergartens. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 15/2003. WWW:

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