Not long ago, I posted an interview with Thilo Sarrazin in which he argued that Islamic culture leads children from Muslim families to perform poorly at school and therefore in later life. This article confirms his hypothesis.
The points made about Islamic/Turkish culture (its authoritarianism, orientation towards the collective rather than the individual, denigration of girls), although mentioned here in an educational context, also have significant implications for the rest of society.
Around a third of the immigrant children living in Germany have problems in school. Educational researchers Ahmet Toprak und Aladin El Mafaalani [of Turkish and Syrian extraction] have now investigated the reasons for their poor performance and disciplinary difficulties on behalf of the Konrad Adenauer Institute. Their behaviour to now has been “irritating, disconcerting and socially undesirable,” it says in their study about “Muslim children and youths in Germany.”Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
According to the analysis of the authors, lack of success in school is due to a number of cultural and familial factors. One relates to the early childhood upbringing. While German parents generally know that the basis for success in school is found at home, in families of Turkish origin no “pre-education” in line with school requirements takes place. They pay little attention to the development of the linguistic, motor and cognitive abilities of their children to prepare for school. Displaying a helpless trust in authority, they rely on schools to teach their children what they need to know. They barely know the education and training system, write the authors, overestimate the function of the school and renounce their own educational responsiblity for successful learning. Because that is what they know from their countries of origin: “There what children learn is up to the teacher alone. Parents never get involved in the school’s education,” says Mafaalani, who is an educational researcher and also a teacher himself.
Children under strict control
“On the other hand, if there are difficulties with the children, a teacher in Turkey or an Arab country will never turn to the parents,” says Toprak, who is professor of educational science at the Fachhochschule Dortmund. “When that happens in Germany, the parents think the teacher is incompetent. They see him asking for help as a sign of weakness.” From the other perspective, teachers interpret the parents’ lack of involvement as disinterest.
Another reason for the difficulties in school is that the aims of bringing up a child are significantly different in poorly educated immigrant families from Turkey compared to those of ordinary Germans: children are first of all supposed to fit into the community they were born into, believe Turkish parents. Obedience to elder family members, respect for authority, maintaining family honour and following the religious rules of Islam are right at the top of the scale of objectives, as the authors demonstrate through interviews. Children are strictly controlled, even spoon-fed, told off and even beaten. The tendency to idolise boys and get girls involved in housework, and otherwise neglect them, still exists.
Longer group learning
German parents, by contrast, want to raise their children to be self-conscious, educated, independent personalities. While, according to the study, individuality is a highly-prized value for them, it makes Turkish parents afraid: Here it’s all about the collective – family and country of origin – rather than the individual. Independence and self-determination, which are called for and promoted in school, are not upbringing objectives, the very opposite: out of fear that children will behave too permissively in a “western” environment, they are very strictly disciplined.
The different intensity of disciplinary measures at home and at school also creates problems for the children: “Turkish children are used to getting into real trouble when they do something forbidden at home,” says Mafaalani. “When they do something crazy at school and the teacher only softly calls on them to show insight and understanding, they don’t take him seriously.”
…Even the motives for founding a family differ in families of Turkish and Arab immigrant extraction compared to the majority society, as the authors describe. They differentiate between “economic-utilitarian” motives (insurance for old age, contribution to family budget), “psychological-affective” motives (joy, emotional reinforcement) and “social-normative” motives (status increase, continuation of family name). Among Turkish and Arab parents, the utilitarian view of children predominates. Even the desire for sons is based on the fact that in Islamic cultures they remain part of the family and support the parents, while girls become part of another family upon marriage. The career preferences of the parents for their children are therefore ambitious: even children with a Hauptschule recommendation [certain class of German secondary school, generally not for the top performers] should be doctors, lawyers or engineers. When the parents become aware that the prerequisites for this are not present, there is great disappointment. In their perception “the German school system” is then to blame for not helping immigrants enough.
To come to grips with this school misery, the authors argue that nurseries should no longer assume that they will be educating “pre-trained” children, but should orient themselves more strongly to heterogeneous learning groups. Solving conflicts without violence and desirable social behaviour should also first be practised there, so that children who have learned other ways of solving conflicts at home do not continually rub others up the wrong way. Whole-day schools offer better opportunities for this than half-day schools. The authors also argue – and this is very unusual for a study from the Adenauer Institute – that there should be longer group learning, that is that nursery should continue until the 6th year so that immigrant children have more time to make up their deficits. Ideally, though, the upbringing style of the parents could be changed in the direction of a supportive, discursive behaviour, says Mafaalani, but in his view that plan would have little prospect of success.