Education is more important than family

The milieu is more important for the school than the migration background

Austria invites 10,000 young people between the ages of twelve and 18 from Turkey to do an apprenticeship here - and to stay afterwards. Sounds unbelievable? Yes, maybe for today, but not in the imperial era. Back then, in the 19th century, ten thousand young Turks were supposed to be brought in to learn a trade abroad and to stay with the master after their apprenticeship - the First World War and the defeat came in between.

One of the many pieces of evidence that "migration is not something that 'hits' us, but has always been the source and product of cultural exchange," says Barbara Herzog-Punzenberger, who heads the Education and Migration Department at the School of Education at the University of Linz directs. In the STANDARD conversation she recalls this little-known history of migration in order to talk about the distorted perception of migration in Austrian and global history.

Migration does not break in on us

Migration has always existed. The question is how an education system deals with it - and not just since the debate about the problematic influence of Islam in classrooms at home. The best way to do this is to find out who you're dealing with first. The distinction between children with and without a migration background is the simplest and least helpful, because it does not take into account too many dimensions of the respective life situations.

"We Austrians and the others" does not do justice to Austrian children either. The magic word is social diversity: "Among the parents born in Austria there are not only educated citizens and skilled workers, there are also unskilled workers, part-time and large farmers, low and senior employees, managers and company owners - and this diversity can also be found among immigrant parents "explains the migration researcher. The life of an Austrian academic family will resemble that of a Muslim university graduate from Egypt more than local unskilled labor families and vice versa.

School policy for target groups

These groups connect and shape deeply anchored values ​​and attitudes beyond their origins and professional position. One speaks of social milieus. They are the most important anchors for an educational policy that consciously deals with plurality: "If you understand the structure of the milieu, you can also understand education and develop target-group-specific support systems," says the expert. "This is how you get away from the tribal thinking that undifferentiated oversubscribes country differences."

But what do we know about the schoolchildren's milieus, especially in view of the empirically repeatedly confirmed close relationship between educational success and social origin? Thanks to the testing of the educational standards in mathematics in the eighth grade in 2012, a great deal. This first-time full survey of all schoolchildren is an extremely important data pool for educational researchers.

Three exemplary highlights on school reality:

  • The languages: A common prejudice is that the Turkish-speaking group is the largest among schoolchildren with an immigrant background. Not correct. It only makes up a fifth of multilingual school children in Austria. In 2012, the proportion of Turkish-speaking children in the eighth grade was highest in Vorarlberg with ten percent, followed by Vienna with nine and Tyrol with six percent (Austria average: five percent). In contrast, the proportion of school children in Vienna who speak Bosnian / Croatian / Serbian is twice as high as the Austrian average (16 vs. eight percent). Overall, almost a quarter of 14-year-olds in Austria in 2012 were multilingual, so they spoke a non-German language at home. In Vienna it is now almost half (47 percent).
  • The mothers: If you look at the educational qualifications of the mothers, there is a dichotomy (see graphic): In the lower half there is a relatively clear difference between domestic and foreign-born mothers, and hardly any for the highest qualifications (academy, university) one. While more than a third of the immigrant mothers only completed compulsory school, this is only 15 percent of the native Austrians who have done an apprenticeship or vocational middle school particularly often, which reflects the successful educational expansion in Austria over the past decades.
  • The islam: It is often said that mothers in Muslim families are shaped by a lack of education, patriarchal oppression and being restricted to the family. Here, too, the migration researcher advises taking a closer look. Depending on the country of origin, there are very different educational profiles: For example, there are many highly educated women among the mothers of eighth graders born in Egypt (who often cannot implement their qualifications on the domestic labor market, i.e. dequalification), Turkish mothers, on the other hand, only have three quarters Compulsory school or no school leaving certificate at all. This composition only partially reflects the social situation in the country of origin, because it is also the result of earlier recruitment, which, for example, brought people from Turkey for simple unskilled jobs and not academics.

The stereotypes that followed from the anti-Slavism that was pronounced in some places in earlier times - general backwardness et cetera - are refuted by the empirical data. The proportion of academically trained mothers from Slavic-speaking countries (Russia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Croatia) is in some cases far higher than that of native mothers - again, this is an expression of diverse migration-specific factors.

The AHS quotas provide a picture that cannot be easily explained (see graphic). While on average every second child of a mother from Poland (Catholic) or Egypt (Muslim) goes to high school and every third child from Austria, only a quarter of the children from mothers from Serbia and only every sixth child from a Turkish mother do so. Why? Because parents, their education, their job and the reality of family life have a lot to do with school.

This is one of the most important hinges between school and families, where "plurality competence" could have a lasting effect, says Herzog-Punzenberger. School systems that are aware of this respond with specific models for "cooperative parent work". The fact, for example, that so few Turkish children are in high school is certainly also related to the fact that the parents often work in jobs where education or further training is not an issue. The parental distance from school makes it difficult for the children to be successful in school.

Empower parents and mix children up

What to do? Enable these parents to have a positive closeness to school as well. "Don't teach, start early and create trust," says Herzog-Punzenberger. Hippy, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, which works with poorly educated parents to prepare their children for school, is very successful in the USA. Both sides are strengthened in the sense of "empowerment". The parents, who themselves had little relation to school, report how nice it is that they too can suddenly teach their children something in an area that they previously did not trust themselves to be capable of. The children, in turn, enjoy the fixed time with mum or dad every day, for example to look at picture books.

In addition to the conscious handling of the children's living environment, there is something else that must be addressed in politics, Herzog-Punzenberger emphasizes: "Desegregation, i.e. mixing, should form a main axis in the discourse. If everyone is only concerned with their own child and there is no insight into it collective effects there will be no solution. " (Lisa Nimmervoll, September 21, 2018)