I have just spent ten days in Germany and was very struck by the approach to immigrants. I found no interest in assessing whether Angela Merkel was right to take in so many immigrants in the last year. There is more than just interest in the integration of immigrants, there is genuine enthusiasm.
An infant teacher that I spoke to has finished the four year cycle with her class and has just received the list of names for the class she will have for the next four years. Of the 26 names, just 9 are recognisably German. Clearly names are not an infallible guide to cultural identity. To give just two examples; Mesut Özil is thoroughly German and Shoala Ameobia is Geordie through and through. However, whether the 17 non-German names, actually predominantly Muslim names, are German, Muslim or Eskimo is not the point. The point is that this teacher believes she is getting a class loaded with Muslim immigrants. And she is delighted!
She will not just be cranking the handle one more time – doing what she has done many times before. Here is a chance for her to use her skills to really benefit children who are at a particularly difficult time in their lives.
Also, she points out that it is wrong to place too much emphasis on the fact that immigrants often do not have a fluent grasp of their new host language. She is expecting that many of her new class will be struggling with their German. However, they will also be struggling with a fluent grasp of their native language. They have not been in school, possibly ever, and they have been outside their native country, possibly for years. She makes the point that not having a fluent grasp of any language undermines a child’s confidence. Educating these children presents many complex challenges – what a great opportunity!