Bridge or Hurdle?
Social Relationships in Preparatory Classes and Beyond within German schools
The massive influx of refugees in 2015 and 2016, among them many school-aged children and youth, sped up the debate about Germany as a country of immigration, in particular about the fairness and social inclusiveness in the German school system. As in many other European countries, in Germany newly immigrated students without knowledge of German initially attend preparatory classes. The strong focus on learning German and the separation of the students from native-born peers are seen to hinder both their educational progress and social belonging within school. Based on data from a survey of newly arrived students conducted in 2018 and with regard to the students’ well-being, this paper examines the question as to whether or not attending a preparatory class is an obstacle to integration within the school community. The findings show that immigrant students generally have a good relationship with their new classmates and teachers and feel well at school. Attending a preparatory class does lead to some restrictions, i.e., it limits the chance to establish friendships with native-born schoolmates. At the same time, there are also advantages connected with learning in separate learning environments.
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