Thursday, May 18, 2006

Immigrants in German schools are falling behind

File it under: this can't be good.
A new study released by the OECD shows that immigrants in Germany perform much worse at school than their counterparts elsewhere. Even more worrying: the second generation is falling even further behind.

[...] The German school system fails when it comes to educating immigrant children. That is the unsettling conclusion of a report presented on Monday in Berlin by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). When compared to native German students, first-generation immigrants (born outside of Germany) perform well below the average of first-generation immigrants in the 17 countries considered in the report. And the gap becomes even larger among second-generation immigrants (children with at least one parent born outside the country). Among this group, German schools' performance was right at the bottom of the survey. [...]

The most disturbing aspect of the new study was the degree to which Germany's second-generation immigrants still lagged behind their native German counterparts. Only Germany, Denmark and New Zealand showed a decrease in performance from first to second generation immigrants in the four areas tested -- mathematics, reading, science and problem solving -- with German immigrant pupils by far the worst off. [...]
Germany has any number of problems with assimilating its immigrants. A festering and growing (immigrants have the highest birth rates) underclass having little in common with Germans points to French-style riots and an increased liklihood of terrorism.

Coming up with more money to help this group will be tough. Germany is having a hard time with its budget (currently thousands of physicians are striking for better pay), and still has millions out of work.
Specific criticism was levelled at the German and Austrian school systems for their practice of separating students by achievement at the age of 10. In Germany, this means that high-achieving students are placed in university track schools after the fourth grade and lower achieving students are essentially blocked from ever attending university. Many of the third-tier schools in Germany's three-level system become collection points for under-achievers, problem students and foreign students.
This is a system I still can't understand. Fortunately Switzerland doesn't begin placing students in different types of schools until about the high school level--still much too early to my mind. Consequently, only about 20% of Swiss students are able to attend university.