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Education of Muslim migrants

The overwhelming majority of Muslim migrants came to Germany as family members or so-called family latecomers. Job prospects have been another important factor in German immigration. Of the Muslims who have come to Germany for job-related reasons, labour migrants constitute the majority at 22 percent. Furthermore, every fifth Muslim with a migrant background has come to Germany as a refugee or asylum seeker. A further 15 percent have migrated to study.

Reasons for immigration are key to occupational status

Reasons for immigration differ depending on region of origin and occur with varying frequency. The proportion of labour migrants from countries with which Germany concluded recruitment agreements during the period of the "economic miracle" in the 1960s is especially large. The agreement with Turkey came into being around 1961. Accordingly one third of migrants of Turkish origin state that they migrated in order to work. Refuge and asylum as a reason for migration play an important role among migrants from countries with no recruitment agreement. This applies particularly to Muslims from Iran.

The south-eastern European countries, which constituted the former Yugoslavia, are a special case. As there was also a recruitment agreement with Yugoslavia, this explains the relatively high proportion of labour emigrants (28 percent) and accompanying family members (59 percent) from south-eastern Europe. At the same time, however, more than one third (36 percent) of interviewees came to Germany as war refugees in the wake of the Balkan conflict in the early 1990s.

Most migrants decide to emigrate to Germany based on an individual combination of circumstances. The findings of the study make it clear that Muslims and members of other religious communities largely come to Germany for the same reasons.

Big differences in education according to countries of origin

The level of schooling among people from a migrant background is on average lower than in the indigenous society. Specifically among immigrants from Muslim countries of origin, Muslims possess a lower level of education than members of other religious communities. There are however also greater differences among Muslim migrants depending on country of origin. The study carried out by the Federal Office substantiates the evidence of many other studies that the Muslims of Turkish origin show the highest deficit of education: a proportion of 17 percent with no school-leaving qualification compares with only 28 percent of people with a high school-leaving qualification. Only Muslims from the Near East and other African countries come off similarly badly with 17 and 15 percent of people having no school-leaving qualification. Muslims of Iranian origin, in contrast, show the highest level of education by far. Over 80 percent of them have a higher education entrance qualification.

The following illustration from the study "Muslim life in Germany" shows the highest school-leaving qualification gained in the country of origin or in Germany by interviewees from a migrant background according to region of origin and religion (in percent).

Dataset of interviewees weighted from the age of 16. Number of unweighted cases: 3,886 (without schoolchildren). The German school-leaving qualification is shown for people who have gained a qualification in both countries.

If one differentiates between first and second-generation migrants, all regions of origin show that the following generation leaves the German school system with a qualification significantly more often than their parents' generation. This educational advancement in the second generation applies in particular to Muslim women and girls. Despite this positive trend, the relatively high proportion of school leavers with no qualification and the comparatively low level of Abituriente [high school graduates] among Muslims reveal continuing deficiencies in education.

Given the large differences among Muslims depending on country of origin, it is clear that there is no direct correlation between affiliation to the Muslim faith community and education. Historical circumstances and the reasons for which people have migrated play a far more decisive role in educational achievement. Muslim families who came to Germany in response to the recruitment of labour migrants from Turkey or Morocco, for example, predominantly belong to less educationally minded groups.

Differences between men and women

Clear differences stand out with regard to levels of education between the sexes. On the whole, female migrants bring significantly lower school-leaving qualifications from their countries of origin than male migrants. However, Muslim women have achieved significantly greater advancement in the German education system over the course of generations than have men. Women who have gone through the German school system generally have a higher level of school-leaving qualification than their mothers' generation. Although there has been a rise in educational levels in the second generation of men, it is significantly less pronounced.

Remedial measures are essential

Achievement at school and levels of education have a significant bearing on professional success among migrants. Whereas 67 percent of employed interviewees with no school-leaving qualification are manual workers, this proportion is only 17 percent among high school graduates. Almost half of high school graduates work as salaried employees and another third are self-employed. It therefore seems likely from the findings of the study on Muslim life in Germany that it is precisely in the field of education that catch-up and remedial measures are required as far as training and advanced qualifications for Muslim migrants are concerned. This is an essential prerequisite for the successful professional and social integration of Muslims.

Demand for recognition of foreign qualifications

An additional exacerbating factor is that those first-generation immigrants who bring higher school-leaving qualifications with them from their countries of origin frequently have to struggle to have those qualifications recognised in Germany. A lack of transparency in approval procedures and catch-up qualification provision, as well as the multitude of responsible authorities and contacts, make it harder to integrate already qualified migrants in the world of work.

Religiosity is no hindrance to attending lessons

There is frequent debate on the disadvantages to Muslim schoolboys and, above all, schoolgirls of restricted participation in specific educational provision. The findings of the study on Muslim life in Germany indicate that public debate often overestimates the lack of willingness of Muslim pupils to take part in mixed-sex physical education lessons.

Nilden Vardar and Anne Kuhl, Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, 02.10.2009

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