Thursday, June 17, 2010

Baden Wurttemberg Works on School Integration

June 16, 2010 Integration of Students with Migrant Backgrounds

We drove to Stuttgart to visit the Schickhardt Gymnasium, attend a presentation at the Baden Wurttemberg Ministry for Culture, Youth and Sport (Kultus, Jugend und Sport), and to debrief with teachers of immigrant backgrounds.

I attended a meeting with the principal, two teachers, and five students at the Schickhardt Gymnasium to discuss their school and the issues facing immigration. This school is for gifted students, in this case girls who are in elite sports such as volleyball and soccer. The principal noted that he worked hard to use the same intensity that students bring to their sports to steer them to academic excellence. The school is special in that it gives student athletes the flexibility to pursue elite sports yet still attend a normally functioning school. The example that the principal used was a student with a big volley ball match on a Sunday could not be expected to take a test on a Monday, but would be given the chance to make it up on Tuesday. Some students might come with language deficiencies, but they are asked to attend special tutorials to make up such shortcomings, especially in written work. It should be emphasized that although each Gymnasium has a special focus, the Abitur is centrally written and administered and all students in Baden Wurttemberg have to take it. As for students with immigrant backgrounds, the school has worked hard to retain teachers with migrant backgrounds, two of whom we met.

I asked the students what questions they would want to pose to American students. They asked what American students think about Germans? Are their tests mostly multiple choice exams? Is there something wrong with the American school schedule that allows so much time in the summer? Their favorite music is Lena, Xavier Nadoo and the Fantastic Four.

That afternoon, we visited the Baden Wurttemberg Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport in the New Palace in Stuttgart. This castle was leveled by American bombing and was renovated in the 1950s and 1960s. According to the spokesman, Siegmut Keller, it now houses the economics ministry and the culture and education ministry. The ministry is in charge of curricula, building schools, overseeing 120,000 teachers and staff, administering the central Abitur among other issues. It is also charged with developing integration programs for children with migrant backgrounds. This is made difficult because they have no data on how many of these children exist because they only keep information on foreign born. This brings us back to the peculiarity of the German concept of citizenship based upon blood as opposed to place of birth. Although there were changes in the 1990s extending citizenship to children born in Germany who wish to renounce the citizenship of their parents and take up German citizenship, they are still not integrated into Germany society, as noted in an earlier entry. This is a special issue in Baden Wurttemberg because of the large migrant proportion of the population (37% of Stuttgart’s population, 25% of all of B-W). Another issue is the problem of Islamic religious instruction in B-W. There are 12 Islamic programs in B-W.

The goals of Baden-Wurttemberg’s integration policy are as follows:

1. Language competence.
2. Cooperation with parents.
3. Intercultural competence of Teachers
4. Individual support for students with migrant backgrounds.
5. Cooperation with foreign consulates to teach the mother language of the students.
6. Train and retain more teachers with migrant backgrounds.

Later, we met with teachers with migrant backgrounds and explored such issues as the use of the mother tongue by students from migrant backgrounds. Should this be allowed at schools between classes and at lunch? Another issue was parents with migrant backgrounds. The support of migrant parents for the mission of the school and the inclusion of parents with migrant workers in the school culture were deemed critical. This portion of the program ended with a presentation from a teacher of a program of Islamic religious studies at a school in Baden Wurttemberg.

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