“Integration only succeeds through successful participation in education”

Education plays a central role in the integration and social participation of people with a migrant background, emphasizes Stiftung Mercator. That’s why she wants to ensure more equal opportunities . Children who have immigrated to Germany are often disadvantaged at school, says Christiane von Websky, Head of Integration at the Foundation.

In order to counteract this, it sees the teachers in particular as their duty. In an interview with finanzen.de, Websky explains how the foundation supports people in reducing disadvantages and what success has already been achieved.

Integration is one of the four major cluster themes of Stiftung Mercator. Which three aspects are particularly close to your heart, especially with regard to the current refugee situation in Germany?

Christiane von Websky: We want to positively influence the integration climate by raising awareness about the chances of immigration. Above all, this should strengthen social cohesion in Germany and enable all people to participate in society. An effective way to achieve this is through successful education. Our commitment to equal opportunities involves the entire society in Germany – including the newly immigrated refugees.

Immigrant students are often doubly disadvantaged by their migrant background and their social background, which is why we look at both in our educational projects. Because integration can only succeed through successful participation in education.

How do you want to achieve your integration goals and how exactly do you support people with a migrant background?

Christiane von Websky: Together with our partners, we are developing projects with a model character that have the potential to expand further. It is important to us not only to act selectively, but to develop innovative and implementable concepts that are transferable. We are guided by the question of what schools and teachers must do to master the challenges of increasing diversity in the classroom . One focus of our work is, for example, language training, which we take into consideration with our partner company, the Mercator Institute for Language Education and German as a Second Language, among others.

How do you specifically encourage people who have a migration background themselves, for example through their own projects for more integration?

Christiane von Websky: Social participation, which should be possible for all people living in Germany, also means for us that everyone should work for a positive integration climate. We therefore encourage – especially young people – to actively engage in discourse, for example with the Young Islam Conference. There, religious and non-religious young people from immigrant and non-immigrant backgrounds come together to discuss their lives in Germany or in their city, to learn more about each other and to give their own impulses for living together in diversity in politics and administration .

What successes have you already achieved with your projects? Is there an example that you have particularly remembered?

Christiane von Websky: Through our studies, we succeed time and again to contribute to the objectification of the debate on immigration. Prejudices are often caused by ignorance . We communicate the results of our studies widely, derive recommendations for action and pass these on to politicians, administrators and teachers. For example, in our most recent “Diversity in the classroom” study, very concrete, hands-on approaches to teaching came out to show how good performance can be fostered by students with a migrant background.

What approaches do you see both socially and politically in order to further promote the integration of people with a migration background in Germany and to create more equal opportunities?

Christiane von Websky: Above all, teachers and educational staff must be prepared for an ethnically and socially diverse school and student body and the associated requirements targeted in education and training. We are currently developing a degree program together with the University of Duisburg Essen, which should also professionalize teachers in the areas of language development, trauma coping and dealing with diversity. The goal is to alleviate educational disadvantages of immigrant and / or disadvantaged students through an intercultural and religion-sensitive attitude of the teaching staff.

Thank you for the interview, Ms. von Websky.

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