Children should visit German schools and kindergartens quickly

Researchers ask: Ukrainian children and young people must go to kindergarten or school as soon as possible

Berlin.The Standing Scientific Commission of the Conference of Ministers of Education is pushing for the fastest possible integration of children and young people who have fled Ukraine into kindergartens and schools. “The basic requirement is that all children and young people should attend kindergarten or school as soon as possible after their arrival,” says Kiel professor Olaf Köller, who is one of the committee chairs. According to a 20-page report by the researchers, the aim must be “to enable the acquisition of German as a language of instruction and its early integration into subject teaching”.

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It’s about quantity and quality

Not only is a high percentage of German lessons needed early on, but there must also be ongoing support in the years to follow, the scientists write in the report. Based on the scientific knowledge available so far, it cannot be answered with certainty whether better results would be obtained with separate host classes or with immediate integration into normal classes plus language lessons: the quantity and quality of language lessons are decisive. It should be integrated quickly, especially in primary schools. This also increases the sense of belonging.

The Standing Scientific Commission is an independent advisory body to the Conference of Education Ministers. It includes 16 educational researchers.

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In addition to rapid integration, scientists are calling for good psychological care for children and young people, including treatment options. “We have to assume that 25 to 35 percent of Ukrainian children and young people suffer from severe psychological stress,” says Felicitas Thiel, professor of educational pedagogy and school development research at Freie Universität Berlin.

Ukrainian lessons as a possible supplement

When it comes to school lessons, scientists insist on learning the German language quickly. On the other hand, they also support educational offers in Ukrainian language, as a supplement. Promoting multilingualism, also with a view to maintaining one’s cultural identity, is the right thing to do. However, practical implementation will not be easy. It is not yet known how many Ukrainian teachers there are among refugees in Germany.

In a speech at the Conference of Education Ministers, the Ukrainian Consul General, Iryna Tybinka, called for children to be taught online by Ukrainian teachers according to their country’s curriculum. The background is Ukraine’s hope that people will quickly return to their country.

The Conference of Education Ministers reacted kindly but cautiously to this request: it is committed to integration. However, the president of the Association for Education and Training (VBE), Udo Beckmann, demands that the German side should not “just wipe out without checking” the issue. But he also says: “Of course, we must not lose sight of the danger of children and young people being separated from Ukraine, so as not to encourage the emergence of parallel societies.”

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The Standing Scientific Commission advertises that Ukrainian children and young people also need to be quickly integrated into extracurricular recreational and sports activities. Friendship development does not happen alone, it must also be fostered by spending time together in recreation centers and youth sports clubs. Schools and day care centers should make these offers known.

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