Kolat appealed to politicians to fight for educational opportunities for all. “The time for apologies is over,” Kolat said. “We need to come to a collective discourse as a society.”
The study “Wasted Potential,” released on Monday by the Berlin-based Institute for Population and Development, looked at some 800,000 immigrants in 2005, comparing integration levels of eight different groups for the first time. It compiled a ranking of Germany's 16 states based on the level of immigrant integration. Success was based on an index of 20 factors within the categories of assimilation, education, employment, and social welfare – all of which were compared to the average situation of native Germans.
Results showed that of the some 15 million immigrants in Germany – about 20 percent of the population – Turks made the poorest showing in educational gains. Thirty percent of the country’s 2.8 million people of Turkish origin did not finish school, and only 14 percent took the Abitur, the final secondary school exam required to qualify for university. But more than 50 percent of those in other migrant groups managed these tasks, the report said.
Immigrants of Turkish origin were also found to be the least successful in the labour market: they are often jobless, the percentage of housewives is high and many are dependent on welfare, the study said. Turkish workers began arriving in Germany in the early 1960's when the country desperately needed laborers to rebuild the post-war economy. Many of these workers remained in Germany and founded families that are now in the third and fourth generation.
The state of Saarland was found to have the worst record – 45 percent of its Turks had no educational qualification of any kind. Meanwhile the state of Hesse, where some 23 percent of the population has an immigration background, had the best integration record. The best-integrated cities were Munich, Bonn, Frankfurt (am Main) and Düsseldorf.
Fairly well integrated is Germany’s largest group of immigrants - the four million Russian, Polish, Romanian, Slovakian, Czech, Hungarian and Yugoslavian descendants of ethinic German settlers. Immigrants from Asia were found to be the best integrated group, while those from former Yugoslavia and Africa were just ahead of Turkey in last place.
Reiner Klingholz, director of the institute publishing the study, said language remained the key to education and successes.
Germany’s commissioner for integration, Maria Böhmer, reacted to the results by calling for redoubling efforts at integration. “We are fighting the failures of the past,” Böhmer told broadcaster ZDF on Monday morning, calling the numbers “dramatic” and adding that issues that have been present for more than 50 years can’t be solved in three or four years.
The study results are from four years ago in 2005, she said. “That was the reason we said we would focus on integration policy,” she said, adding that Germany has set the “extremely ambitious goal” of equalising the level of education between German and immigrant children by 2012.
Germany continues to grapple with integration policies in courts, too. On Monday a federal court rejected an appeal from a Stuttgart teacher fighting for her right to wear a headscarf on the job. The ruling solidified a March 2008 ban on headscarves for state employees, arguing that headscarves endanger the freedom of religion in schools. Teachers are also not allowed to wear priestly robes or the Jewish Kippa.