Faisal Al Yafai
country with more than 30,000 schools, the opening of three more should hardly
be a cause for concern. But the announcement last month that the German government
was formulating a legal framework for the opening of three Turkish schools in
the country provoked a minor political firestorm and a lot of cultural
in France, a similar debate took place last year after Erdogan expressed a
desire to open Turkish schools in the country. Those plans appear to be on
hold, but they provoked the same fears that such schools might promote a
hardline version of Islam and that Erdogan specifically might use them to
expand his influence.
are overblown. There are good reasons to be concerned about the opening of
Turkish schools in Germany, but all of them are about Germany itself.
“Islamist indoctrination” are excessive. There are many more mosques in Germany
than Turkish-language schools and a Turkish umbrella organization runs at least
900 of them. The government is already looking at ways to regulate imams in
these mosques, which will do more to standardize teaching than fretting over
Nor is the
issue of Erdogan’s personal influence as serious as it may seem. All private
schools are obliged to submit their curricula for state approval, so Turkish
schools are unlikely to become mouthpieces for the Turkish president.
concern ought to be what these schools might mean for Germany itself and,
specifically, for the integration of Turkish minorities in Germany, which
already has a complex relationship with its largest minority group. Surveys
regularly show two apparently contradictory trends among the Turkish minority:
an increased desire to integrate into German society and an increase in
religiosity and sense of kinship with Turkey.
relationship is further complicated by passports. Unlike most large European
countries, Germany makes it difficult to hold dual nationality with a non-EU
country, a rule that disproportionately affects the Turkish community. Until
2014, children of migrant parents who wanted to become German citizens had to
give up their parents’ nationality, which caused complications in a community
that still maintains strong business, social and personal ties to Turkey.
politics matters too. As Germany’s largest Muslim minority, the post-September
11, 2001, era has weighed heavily on Turks. And in recent years, Erdogan has
found it expedient to suggest Turks abroad suffer discrimination. He is, in
effect, individualizing the idea that discrimination is the reason Turkey has
failed to win admittance to the European Union.
relations between Germany and Turkey have deteriorated, particularly since the
attempted coup of 2016, so have relations between Germans and the Turkish
community inside Germany. The 2017 Turkish constitutional referendum was
particularly difficult, as Erdogan encouraged supportive rallies in German
cities, some of which were then cancelled by German authorities, damaging
relations even further. Against that background, Turkish-language schools could
easily store up problems for the future.
schooling is usually assumed to be expensive. In Germany, however, private
schools are subsidized by the state and fees tend to be modest. Nine percent of
pupils in Germany are in private education, usually chosen by their parents for
reasons of religion or language. Since better integration is still problematic
for Turks in Germany, it is not implausible to imagine how Turkish-language
schools would rapidly become popular.
and integration are emotive topics. There is obviously a demand for
Turkish-language education – a demand that the German state education system
cannot meet. On the other hand, with Turkey’s rising power and influence,
Turkish could be a useful language to learn for those outside the German
Turkish community, too.
the specifics of integration in Germany, it is wise to tread carefully. Turkish
schools offering schooling solely in Turkish would inevitably foster cultural
isolation. Linguistic ghettos can be just as damaging as geographical ghettos
and surely the political priority now must be to discourage different
communities from leading lives that run parallel to each other but rarely
Now, as the
legal framework is being debated, is the time to consider these issues. Now
would be the right moment to stipulate a certain amount of German-language
instruction, for example.
makes people emotional, but any resident of a country who is not fluent in the
language of that country is automatically at a major disadvantage. That is true
whether their parents arrived from Warsaw or Ankara, or whether they are
Syrians fleeing war or Britons fleeing Brexit.
politicians, perhaps predictably, lamented the “Islamization of the German
education system.” But mainstream politicians were also angry. “We don’t want
Erdogan schools in Germany,” said Markus Blume, a member of Chancellor Angela
Merkel’s ruling center-right alliance. On the political left, Sevim Dagdelen, a
socialist member of the Bundestag who, incidentally, also chairs the
parliamentary German-Turkish group, said the schools would be “poisonous for
integration and democracy.”
Most of the
concerns were generally about Islam and more specifically about Turkey’s
president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a hugely divisive figure in Germany.
Headline: Why Germany is right to be wary of Turkish schools
Source: The Asia Times