Germany's Turkish children sink into the underclass

The children of Turkish immigrants in Germany are failing at school and in danger of solidifying into a permanent underclass. Both right-wing politicians - who hold up the two-million strong Turkish community as evidence that multi-culturalism cannot work - and Turkish leaders are sounding the alarm over levels of under-achievement among the children of Germany's largest ethnic minority group.

The children of Turkish immigrants in Germany are failing at school and in danger of solidifying into a permanent underclass. Both right-wing politicians - who hold up the two-million strong Turkish community as evidence that multi-culturalism cannot work - and Turkish leaders are sounding the alarm over levels of under-achievement among the children of Germany's largest ethnic minority group.

German society is already in uproar over demands by the opposition that immigrants blend into their surroundings and kowtow to the "defining culture" - Leitkultur - of the land. Now the Turkish embassy, worried by reports that the grandchildren of the first Gastarbeiter still cannot master the language of Goethe and a quarter of them leave school without a qualification, has sent out a circular urging parents to make an effort.

Schools in Berlin, the biggest Turkish city this side of Istanbul, are cutting back on lessons provided in the immigrants' mother tongue. Twelve of the 19 primary schools running bilingual classes in the capital have ditched Turkish because, they say, the children were not learning German.

"Our model has failed," says Gerd-Jürgem Busack, headmaster of Nürtingen primary school in Kreuzberg, the heart of Turkish Berlin. In a class of 10-year-olds Kevin, the lone German, tries to outshout 17 Turks, one Arab and one Kurd. Four of the girls wear headscarves. In lessons the children are keen and speak fluently, but what comes out of their mouths is pidgin German, full of howlers. These pupils will complete their primary education in two languages, but the school did not start a bilingual class for this year's entrants. Mr Busack says it is asking too much to foist two languages on children who had none.

"The kids are born here, yet they cannot speak German," he complains. "And their Turkish is miserable. When they come here, they cannot name the primary coloursin Turkish or German. They sit for 10 hours in front of the TV, they have never drawn, painted or played with anything other than electronic toys."

"Turks are at the lower end of the achievement scale," says Eren Unsal, an educationalist and spokeswoman of Berlin's Turkish Association. Ms Unsal, 30, is the kind of Turk most Germans would approve of. She is articulate, stylishly dressed and has a German boyfriend. "I am second generation," she says. "I have no problem with the German language. But the generation after me does."

Her organisation and the Turkish Parents' Federation agree with Mr Busack that the children are struggling because they learn no German at home. About half the Turkish men in Berlin bring their wives from the old country, especially from rural areas. The women's education is rudimentary. Children often hear no word of German until their first day at school.

The Turkish embassy and the Parents' Federation have sent out letters urging Turkish families in Berlin to "start your children in kindergarten as early as possible". But Ms Unsal says many Turkish parents are either too poor to pay the fees - the unemployment rate among Berlin's Turks is 30 per cent - or reluctant to put their offspring in a non-Muslim environment in their impressionable early years.

Ms Unsal grew up in a suburb where her family were in those days the only Turks. There was no choice but to conform. But successful as she has become in German society, she does not think she is a suitable role model for her people. "This country has gifted me a language, but deprived me of my own," she says. "I spoke no Turkish until I was 20. I was not integrated, I was assimilated."

No such threat faces the majority of Turks in Kreuzberg. German parents are pulling their children out of local schools, and the emerging Turkish middle class is fleeing into the suburbs. The ghetto is closing its gates.

News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
people
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Life and Style
The racy marketing to entice consumers to buy Fairlife, which launches in the US next month
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital