The government-backed institution, which has 137 institutes in 92 countries, taught a total of 217,068 students in 2010 – up from 207,966 in 2009. It says recruitment figures to be released next month show further growth in 2011.
However, while it experienced steady growth in many traditional markets, there were spectacular rises in Spain (up 60%) and Greece and Portugal, which saw “double digit” growth.
In Germany’s 13 Goethe institutes, where recruitment is known to have risen 11.1% (up from 6.9% in 2010), the biggest rises again came from Southern Europe. The number of Spanish students climbed 50%, followed by Greeks (30%) and Italians (10%).
Observers say the Southern European interest is due in large part to economic migration spurred by the Eurozone debt crisis. As other parts of Europe suffer low growth and high unemployment, Germany has seen continued strong growth (enjoying a 3% rise in GDP in 2011 compared with 1.5% across the rest of the Eurozone) and its lowest levels of unemployment in over 20 years.
“With youth unemployment high in their home country, a lot of young people in Southern Europe are seeing career chances in Germany,” Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, the Goethe Institute’s president, told the Financial Times earlier this week.
Observers say the Southern European interest is due in large part to economic migration
The institute said that the steady decline of German teaching in European schools – as English and other subjects took precedence – may also have helped language schools.
“The decline of German in the educational systems also explains the strong increase of the demand for Goethe courses as many young people who want to improve their professional opportunities are deprived of a multilingual education in their schools,” said a spokesperson for the institute.
He added that interest in German abroad was being rekindled, thanks to major promotional campaigns in regions such as Asia, the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe. In September, the institute signed an agreement with a leading educational institution in India to introduce German to 1,000 schools – a project that could reach up to a million students.
Goethe Institutes performed well in other markets in 2011, with a 7% increase from South America, “strong growth” in North America and rising interest in China and Eastern Europe.
However, the traditionally strong market of Japan suffered from the Fukushima crisis, while the upheaval of the Arab Spring led to the temporary closure of Goethe Institutes in Cairo and Damascus.