Germany: Union focuses on need to address inclusion of refugees

published 2 October 2017 updated 11 January 2022

German educators are addressing the best ways to integrate refugee children into the school system, pointing out challenges to the education systems status quo.

The challenge posed by the arrival of thousands of refugee children to the German school system was at the core of a seminar organised by the education union, Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW) in Bremerhaven, earlier this week. The GEW is a member of Education International (EI).

Over 100 experts in pedagogy, teachers and educators gathered to discuss the effectiveness of existing inclusion mechanisms – these mechanisms are aimed at students who have no knowledge of the German language and are often illiterate.

The leader of the regional Bremen GEW branch, Bernd Winkelmann, underlined that the education system needed to be strengthened in order to make integration happen and help the newcomers find their place – and succeed in school. Students need more support around learning German, he said, adding that this will mean more tuition hours, over a longer period of time than is foreseen.

Teacher shortage

The seminar highlighted how the numbers of newcomers has not been matched with a proportional increase in teacher numbers. Teacher shortages should be addressed by improving the status of teaching to attract and retain people in the profession, Winkelmann noted. Existing teachers should also receive additional training, he said.

The GEW has criticised the bureaucratic hurdles in recognising the teacher diplomas of refugees who should be entitled to teach and could help fill the gaps in German schools. “Often students do better at school when they have a teacher who speaks their mother tongue,” said Winkelmann.