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Immigrant children disadvantaged in German schools

DDP/The Local · 9 Jun 2010, 13:37

Published: 09 Jun 2010 13:37 GMT+02:00

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While one third of German students graduate from university-track high schools, just one-tenth of students who have what is called Migrationshintergrund make it that far, the study by Paritätische Wohlfahrtsverband, an organisation dedicated to social justice, found.

“Not even three percent of those at German universities are foreigners who have completed their entry qualifications here,” said the organisation’s leader Barbara John at the launch of the report in Berlin. “Most of the foreign university students bring their high school qualifications from abroad.”

John, who served as Berlin’s integration commissioner from 1981 to 2003, said the gravest problem lies among young immigrants who drop out of school, regardless of whether it is a university-preparatory school or vocational training institute. Some 15 percent of immigrant pupils drop out - more than double the German dropout rate of 6 percent, the study found.

The main reason lies with the rigid public school system, which funnels students into one of several different tracks based on their abilities after elementary school between the ages 10 and 12 - an age John said was too young.

“The waste of talent that we’re driving cannot go on,” she said. “Some children learn in spite of the schools. But they should be learning because of the schools.”

Story continues below…

The Paritätische Wohlfahrtsverband renewed its call for students to attend the same school for a longer period before being separated, as well as for integrated language support, intercultural competence training for teachers, and the establishment of an educational guarantee strengthened by after-school activities.

DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

14:28 June 9, 2010 by khassi
ah yeah smarty! the study was done in germany!
15:21 June 9, 2010 by jinxgelb
Though I certainly do not favor a school system that divides students into rigid school forms at an early age, as does the traditional German school system (Haupt-, Realschule and Gymnasium), I cannot but criticize the one-sidedness of the report. Stating that immigrants' trouble primarily stem from being divided into the wrong stream at a too early stage is at best an example of unprofessional evaluating of a survey, at worst can be interpreted as leftist propaganda. German students are divided at the same age, yet seem to be far less prone to failure than their fellow students with migrationshintergrund. So there must be something else at the bottom of the issue. The OECD report of 2006 based on PISA (http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/2/57/36665235.pdf) supports this: the greatest difficulties for the children of immigrants to overcome are the German language and cultural adaptation, and this is something that needs to be primarily tackled by all parties. A claim that in the given report is but a marginal note.
17:50 June 9, 2010 by JohnnesKönig
jinxgelb, you have it right. Beginning to wonder who is writing these articles...
18:06 June 9, 2010 by nepo77
Well if they cant speak German -DUUH.
18:22 June 11, 2010 by SeekTruth
Maybe if these students stayed in their own countries they wouldn't have a problem.

Why can't their parents stay in their home countries and try to make their countries better than Germany?

Remember, a quarter of Germany's population was wiped out by the black plague, millions killed and additional millions disabled and wounded in both WWI and WWII and east Germany was shackled with communism. If the Germans can bounce back, and other war-torn countries like Japan and South Korea can bounce back then why can't the countries where these immigrants come from do the same?

Could it be because the smartest ones leave their countries behind and go to places like Germany ... which leaves 98% of the people in their country mired in poverty? These smart immigrants need to practice some compassion and try to raise the standard of living in their country instead of taking the easy way out.
18:32 June 11, 2010 by nyakana
It is so sad to see these young kids being dumped in schools like Sonder schule or Haupt Schule. The German schooling system is biased. For a child of a foreigner to make it in the German schools is just almost impossible.

Most kids that are considered gifted at an early age tend to show bad grades at a later age.

How do you make a 8year kid understand that he has to work hard or else he will be dumped in one of the so called HauptSchule or Sonder Shcule. As long as your parent is a Lawyer or Dr . you have a free pass to Gymnasium. Most of these kids are born in Germany and yet they still cal them Foreigners.

I disagree that the language is an issue, I think most of the teachers in Germany are above 50 and very racist. In NRW the teacher decides which school you will go to and if he is racist, you will get the worst grades from him.

Its about time the Germans changed their attitudes towards foreigners because if they don't educate these foreign kids, Germans future is in trouble. In 20 years to come the Universities will be empty and we all know what happens after that.
18:43 June 11, 2010 by SeekTruth
These poor kids are going to have trouble living in German culture all their life. The real problem is their parents are trying to live the good life while their children suffer and while the people in their homeland suffer. And German businesses are bringing in immigrants to exploit them. It's greed! These immigrants need to think about helping the people in the country they came from and raise that standard of living. After all, Germany doesn't have enough room to take in everyone from 3rd world countries. And if German companies can't benefit from 3rd world immigrant labor then they'll be forced to pay a good wage to Germans.
19:08 June 11, 2010 by nyakana
These kids are born here and so are most of their parents. Their parents pay taxes just like any other German. I wonder why this kind of a problems never happens in countries like England. If you are born in Germany and you are accepted, you automatically adapt to the culture but when you feel not accepted, you then have to take your other culture.

Poland is not a third world and so is Italy. The UN study doesn't mention third world countries but it says children with foreign background not necessarily third world are less likely to make it on schools.

German companies employ mostly Eastern Europeans and not third world countries.

Whether German wants it or not, they will have to deal with this problem seriously or in some 30years to come, they wouldn't be Germans anymore because its only foreigners that are giving birth right now. And if these foreigners don't even have the basic school certificate, I guess German will have to import labor.
12:07 June 14, 2010 by Javarose
This is a bit of a hobby horse of mine. I have a degree from Oxford University, and my ex husband has a degree from the best university in his country. Yet, 3 out of our four children are in the hauptschule. They are not stupid, they just can't yet produce the consistent high standard of learning and regurgitating facts, that's needed to get to RS or Gym (eldest is 13). I don't think that I would have been able to at that age, either. The system is heavily biased, not just in favour of mono-lingual German children, but also families with a stay at home parent who understands how the system works (eg monitors the child's books, and predicts when the surprise test will come - I didn't even realise at the start that my eldest daughter's future would be decided on surprise tests, and the school told me nothing!)

After several years of tutors and homework help, we are simply bypassing the german system. They will study at home for British IGCSEs, which they will do as external candidates at a Cambridge exam centre, and then I'll have to think of some option for A Levels/IB, maybe sending them back to the UK.

It is barking mad. I certainly didn't realise when I came to Germany, that there is effectively no free state education here.
17:27 June 15, 2010 by miroslav2
I think that a lot of the posters above have failed to understand the philosophy behind the German school system. My mother is a German teacher, but I live in England and therefore know both systems.

In Germany - the point of the system is to provide the opportunity for educational attainment and qualifications suited to the work-place. Some things German schools however, are not - childcare centres, integration of immigrants who have not bothered to learn German, provision of social services like free lunches etc. Whether students do the work or not is up to them - if they fail the year, they have to redo it or drop out to an easier school.

I agree that the tri-partite school system is less forgiving of early lack of attainment - but the point is that students are expected to live up to high standards, not that standards are bent for the students to achieve higher grades, as has happened in the UK.

Personal responsibility is taken more seriously, and future careers are approached more realistically - not everyone is promised a university/college place (as here), but they are offered a credible alternative - 4-5 year apprenticeships in thousands of trades with the chance to get real qualifications while working in something useful. Having hundreds of thousands of over qualified graduates who cannot find a job, is not considered beneficial to society,

But I accept, German teachers could be far more pushy - many are single people who are absolutely dedicated to their students - and are absolutely devastated whenever any of their students drop out, like the 16 year old Kurdish girls who just disappear to get married.
20:17 June 15, 2010 by Javarose
miroslav, I think your kind of attitude is part of the problem, actually.

"Whether students do the work or not is up to them" is a short-sighted and callous statement. These are 10 year old children, not adults. How can you compare a mono-lingual, German child with an ex-Gymnasium or Realschule stay at home mother in the 4th class, with a bi-lingual child whose parents are out at work, and don't know how the system works (a typical immigrant experience)?

The system is heavily biased in favour of the former. Splitting the schools aged 10 tips the system heavily in favour of mediocre German children with pushy stay at home parents, at the expense of intelligent foreign children who get no backup from their parents, because the parents don't know the system or are out at work.

It is foolish to claim that the immigrant families "have not bothered to learn German" - reality is that the schools simply don't tell you how the system works. It was other parents who told me how to plan for tests etc, not the teachers.

You seem to hold the idea of schools as childcare centres in some scorn - but morning only school is a relic from the past, those days gone by when german students also stayed at university until they were 30. These days, parents have to work to support their families - it cannot be taken for granted that there is a stay at home parent with a hot dinner and hours to spend on homework coaching.

Your criticism of the english system shows that you don't really understand it either. Yes, there are too many graduates - but english employers can sum up which degrees are worth something in an instant. The whole english system is more about getting pupils to think for themselves and be creative, rather than training them to repeat stuff over and over again until it's perfect.

Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, but the english one is easier on the children.
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