No one knows how long the war will continue to hold the homeland of the Ukraine children in its grip. So what to do with school-age children and young people? Should they integrate into the Bavarian school system, learn on rehearsals, prepare for exams, aim for the transition? Is your knowledge of German enough to go through a school career that corresponds to your abilities? Or is it better to go two ways and keep educating them online from Ukraine, grades and degrees included?
The Bavarian Ministry of Culture is sticking to its previous solutions: Elementary school children from the Ukraine go to normal regular schools. The hope: the language bath they fall into will make sure that they learn German. After all, learning a foreign language is particularly easy for younger children – especially when they are surrounded by a lot of people their own age. It’s different in grades 5 to 9: Here in Bavaria, more than 800 cross-school classes have been set up, which are intended to make them fit to take part in normal lessons at some point.
The concept sounds reasonable, but in practice it is full of problems, which is why the FDP parliamentary group in the state parliament is calling for a clear change of course. The tenor of three Liberal motions that are freshly on the table: more integration.
As early as March, at the request of the FDP, an expert hearing took place in the state parliament on the question of how school integration is progressing. “The conclusion,” said FDP MP Matthias Fischbach, “was devastating.” Motivation problems prevailed in the classes. When it comes to language acquisition, too little progress is made; the goal of moving to a secondary school after one school year in the bridging class is usually not achieved.
There are many reasons for this: while the so-called German classes take in refugees of different nationalities and speak German as a common language, the Ukrainian students in the bridge classes keep to themselves. So there can be no talk of an invigorating “speech bath” in this age group.
In addition, because there is great hope of returning home soon, many children are concentrating on online lessons in Ukraine. So it’s no wonder that learning German isn’t going well.
“We have to be prepared that the Ukrainians will stay”
The Ministry of Education has already reacted: It allows all children from Ukraine whose knowledge of German is not sufficient to attend regular school to attend a bridging class in the next school year. The state parliament FDP, on the other hand, calls for the concept to be scientifically evaluated and for the overriding goal of enabling students to have a successful school career in Bavaria and to be integrated into society to be pursued more vigorously.
The specific proposal is to dissolve the classes by the 2024/25 school year at the latest and to transfer them to the existing German classes as quickly as possible. “The bridge classes must not be a permanent solution. And not simply continued as custody classes,” says Matthias Fischbach.
During the transition period, the FDP wants to improve the motivation and willingness to perform of the refugee children and young people in the classes, for example through direct feedback, the agreement of individual annual goals and differentiated learning offers. Career advice is also being considered, supported by language experts for better understanding. Additional opportunities for social exchange are also to be promoted, for example through improved sports and cultural offerings or “peer mentoring” by people of the same age. From the third grade, the FDP would like special funding offers that make learning German easier. In addition, she calls for a concept for dealing with psychosocial stress and war trauma, a Bavaria-wide multi-professional network of psychologists and social pedagogues, supplemented by low-threshold digital offers.
Speaking of digital: The liberals are also calling for the nationwide provision of digital devices, although this has been happening for a long time and independently of Putin’s war, to improve individual learning and to relieve the burden on teachers. However, these are known to be in short supply, and the idea of the liberals to increase the attractiveness of the supplementary subject “German as a second language” in teacher training does not change anything at first.
And of course there is also a lack of psychological and other specialists on site who, at best, speak Ukrainian and can help to process traumatic experiences. Everything is now sewn to the edge. The Liberals are therefore calling for long-term budgets for third-party native speakers and improved recruitment procedures in order to secure the staffing of the integration offers. “We have to be prepared for the fact that the Ukrainians will stay,” says Fischbach, recalling the guest workers who came to Germany in the 1950s and 1960s, for example from Turkey. Fischbach says: “Back then, people also thought that people would go back, but they stayed.” (Monika Goetsch)
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