More and more German students are illiterate as mass immigration rises, schools ‘overwhelmed’

By John Cody
7 Min Read

German students in the fourth grade are increasingly worse off in mathematics and German, with the negative trend playing out in every single German state, according to a new study published by the government. However, this drop-off in performance, which has hit its worst levels ever, is most dramatic among children with an immigrant background.

The “IQB Education Trend for 2021,” presented by the Institute for Quality in Education (IQB), shows that more and more elementary school students are failing to achieve even the minimum standards set by the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs in German and mathematics, which could have serious consequences not only for Germany’s education system, but also for the country’s future social and economic prospects.

Although the study does not attribute any one cause to the precipitous drop-off in standards, it points to immigration and coronavirus lockdown policies. The study also acknowledges that the worst results are from students with an immigrant background. An astounding 38 percent of all children in elementary schools in Germany have migrant backgrounds, pointing to the massive demographic shift already underway in the country. In cities like Hamburg, the majority of students have a migrant background.

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The country’s radical immigration policy in place since 2016 has resulted in millions more migrants in the country, and many of those migrants have either brought their children or had children since they arrived in the country. Proponents of mass immigration once claimed that these new arrivals would be future “specialists,” such as doctors, lawyers, and engineers. However, the reality is that many of them arrived in Germany illiterate even in their own languages. In turn, many of them have children who also suffer from illiteracy.

Data from 2018 showed that nearly half of all migrants taking language tests for intermediate proficiency ended up failing, and the number of failures was increasing at the time. As Remix News previously reported, the data from the German government shows that many of the migrants who arrived in 2015 and 2016 featured incredibly low skill-sets, and the majority of them remain long-term unemployed or “looking for work” in 2022. Even among the former migrants who are employed and subject to social security contributions, 43.3 percent did not graduate high school. The proportion employed in low-skilled jobs is correspondingly high: 50.1 percent. This share has increased by 6.6 percentage points since January 2016, while the share of skilled workers, specialists, and experts continues to decline.

Given the circumstances, teachers struggle to teach children with a migrant background basic educational concepts, and even if the parents are engaged, they are often unable to provide their own children much in terms of educational aid. While native ethnic German children also are performing worse than they did five years ago, children with an immigrant background are performing even worse in relation to the five-year benchmark. This has led to a widening educational gap between both groups over the last five years.

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The coronavirus crisis is also being fingered as a factor in the drop in student abilities, daily Die Welt writes. According to the paper, “the decline in skills in Germany overall since 2016 corresponds to a reduction in learning time of about one-third of a school year in reading, half a school year in listening, one-fourth of a school year in spelling, and one-fourth of a school year in math.”

Data was collected from 26,844 students between April and August 2021, just after the Corona-related lockdown, with IQB chief Petra Stanet saying there is some evidence the Covid-19 lockdowns and remote learning standards played a role in “unfavorable trends.”

Overall, almost 19 percent of students failed to meet the minimum standard in reading on average across Germany, including 30 percent in spelling. In mathematics, 22 percent of students did not meet the minimum standard.

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The German state of Saxony, which has some of the lowest immigration numbers in all of Germany, performed the best. In second was Bavaria, which has a history of being the top performing German state in terms of education. The worst results were in Berlin, which features the largest immigration population in Germany as a percentage of residents, and Bremen, which also features a large immigrant population.

As Remix News previously noted, 12 out of 16 German states have implemented a total block on new refugee intake, with the governments saying they have no spare capacity in housing, social services, and education. Schools have had to deal with a large influx of non-German speaking migrant populations, including many young people from Ukraine, adding to an already overburdened public school system.

“In Bavaria, the accommodation options for asylum seekers are increasingly being used to capacity, but Bavaria is currently still receptive,” said Bavarian minister of the interior and chairman of the conference of interior ministers, Joachim Herrmann (CSU), last month. “However, there are still many Ukrainians in the shelters who fled to Germany in the first months after the outbreak of war. The new federal government massively pushed admission programs to capacity bottlenecks.”

Bavaria’s interior minister warned that his state, including the school system, is under threat of being “overwhelmed.”

Given the ongoing migrant crisis, Germany’s trend towards illiteracy can only expect to worsen. With the country facing the threat of deindustrialization and a dearth of skilled workers for its advanced manufacturing and technology sectors, economic and social conditions are expected to deteriorate further.

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