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a blog from young economists at Nova SBE

Integration as a future challenge

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Nearly 19% of people in Germany have a migration background with an increasing tendency.[1] The challenge for society is to integrate immigrants, enable them to taking part in social life and give them the chance to develop themselves. The foundation of a peaceful, constructive and respectful interaction between people with different religions or cultural differences, begins with the integration of children in school. Mixed classes of immigrants and native children foster a better understanding of each other and make minorities to identify with society.

In Germany we can observe an opposite development. Immigrants are often separating themselves in school, with serious consequences. A school is “segregated”, if more than the half of the pupil have a migration background. In large cities in Germany, nearly 70% of the pupil of primary school with migration background are visiting such segregated school. In mid-size cities it is 57% and in small cities 41%. On the opposite, just 17.1% of German children are visiting a school with more than the half of immigrants.[2]

The consequences of separation of schools are serious. Often factors from children with migration background, which constrain their success in school, are overlaying: families come out of lower social circumstances, German language skills are bad and knowledge is limited which could help in German schools. When these children are mainly together with other children with the same background, their chances of reaching higher education forms decrease drastically.

In past several approaches were implemented to counter this trend, like offering buses which carry children to other schools or the realignment of allocation of localities and schools. But all these policies didn’t stop or decrease segregation of schools.

Some experts[3] pointed out that the biggest mistake of the German government is to impose one financial and educational system to all schools. This system is oriented only on German pupil with a homogenous cultural background and not a mix of different nationalities. To stimulate an intercultural opening, the diversity of pupil have to be taken into account. A successful step towards this trend is only possible if a reorientation over all areas of school will take place. Isolated actions like advanced trainings of some teachers are not enough.[4] Further segregated should get access to special funds. A “social index” should act as a measure of the amount of payments which receive the schools.

To handle this topic is one the most important challenges Germany is faced with. With the demographical change as a background it is crucial to integrate immigrants to be prepared for future with a well-educated society to survive in a competitive environment.

 

Alexander Max #1575

 


[1] In 2005: 18%, compare Federal Statistical Office of Germany – Mikrozensus (2005/2011)

[2] See „Segregation an deutschen Schulen“ from Sachverständigenrat deutscher Stiftungen für Integration und Migration

[3] See „Die stärksten Schulen für die Schwachen“ from Tagesspiegel

[4] There are no overall campaigns to fight this problem, see: “Fortbildung in Deutschland 2012” from Goethe-Institut

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Author: studentnovasbe

Master student in Nova Sbe

2 thoughts on “Integration as a future challenge

  1. The subject of integration of immigrants and immigrants’ children into the school system is indeed a very important issue, not only for Germany and its low demography, but for most European countries. And it is a very complicated issue.

    The first question is to be very clear about what we are talking about when we say “integration”, “minorities” and “immigrants”:
    Are we talking about second-generations of immigrants who were raised in Germany speaking 2 languages (the mother language of their parents and German) or children of very recent immigrants who don’t speak a word of German?
    Indeed, the issue is not the same at all:
    – In the second case, there is an obvious learning gap between them and other German students, firstly due to language but also to previous cognitive level and methods in their country of origin.
    – In the second case, the problem might be more “social” than “immigration”: is the school issue so different between children who are second-generation immigrants and German students coming from poor backgrounds? As many immigrants are poor and have little education, the socio-economic profile of the children is often similar.
    If this is the case, then we are talking about social segregation, which is not the same problem. Here, many issues are involved, such as social representations of school, concentration of difficulties in some schools, level of resources of public schools in poor neighborhood, etc…

    The second question is the following: is segregation such a bad thing?
    We have seen for Hoxby’s study in 2000 that teachers can sometimes better adapt when the class is more homogeneous. Indeed, the peer effect has contradictory results and in the study in Texas, when Hispanics were more than 66% of a class, their achievements were improved because the teacher adapted, and particularly by using some words and expressing some ideas in their mother-tongue, Spanish. On the opposite, when the gap is too big between the immigrants and German, the immigrant child is just left behind because the teacher would need to spend too much time with him.
    Maybe segregation is not a problem if classes are smaller and the teachers have the time to adapt to particularities: children from African, Asian, American and Turkish origins do not learn and adapt in the same way, because of their different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.

    The drawback with a high-quality segregated system is that it can fail to integrate children in the normal curriculum: the ideal situation might be to have a two-step system for children of immigrants, with a very good bridge between the 2 systems. In order to assess if they are prepared to enter a traditional German school, a continuous evaluation of performance should be done, checking the improvements and the basic knowledge acquisitions …
    Such a tailored-made system would be very costly but this might be the price to pay to make sure that no one is left behind.

    Elise Saunier

  2. I decided to address this post because it seemed to me to be of much interest. The approach that is done is probably similar to the one I would do if it was my own post: focus on education as a key factor for integration, accompanied by relevant data on the issue. The fact that younger people are not segregated allows for a better integration through life.
    Indeed, data gives support for saying that people with a migration background are often segregated, by the fact that joining immigrants in the same class is a current practise, instead of promoting mixed (joining immigrants and native) classes. It would be interesting to collect, if available, data on the completed level of education of people with a migrant background (in order to compare it with the “others”). Additionally, collecting data for these people (and for the “others”, to provide a comparison) concerning average wages, unemployment rate, and other relevant socio-economic indicators would be interesting in order to pursue a more accurate analysis on the importance and the effects of this discrimination pattern.
    In order to solve this problem, it is proposed to differentiate financing on schools accordingly to the concrete needs of the students. In my view, this is a good proposal. It aims at promoting social equity, which is a big concern for many people (like me). Nevertheless, I think the measure will not be sufficient to effectively overcome the problem; I think that measures that get to the root of the problem are the core element to tackle the problem. In this sense, some proposals will be welcome to join the differentiate financing of schools: policies aiming at reducing immigrants’ unemployment rates; free German language courses provided for all (if they wanted to attend them) by teachers with the same native language as the immigrant; promoting the immigrant culture in order to avoid that “a wall is born/enhanced” amongst those with a migration background and the others, thus promoting good social relationships.

    Samuel Cardoso, 624