A new ZOiS Report studies the educational situation of displaced Ukrainian children in Germany. A survey and qualitative interviews show that in particular secondary school-aged pupils pursued their education in parallel in Germany and Ukraine in the first months following arrival in Germany. The authors find that the prospect of return and the socioeconomic situation are important factors in educational choices.
The educational situation of children is of utmost importance for the social integration of both parents and children and, alongside the labour market integration of parents, a crucial factor in understanding how Ukrainians think about their future. To shed light on these issues, ZOiS researchers conducted an online survey among displaced Ukrainian parents in Germany in the summer of 2022 as well as numerous qualitative interviews with both parents and pupils. ‘The findings show the extent to which pursuing their education in parallel in Germany and Ukraine is placing a double burden on young Ukrainians,’ Irina Mützelburg and Félix Krawatzek say. At the same time, the research describes the reasons for educational choices, how families navigate this new situation, and how differences between the school systems of both countries are perceived.
In the summer of 2022 and in the following months, in particular secondary school-aged children continued with their Ukrainian education, even if they were enrolled in German schools. (Fig.) This was facilitated by previous investment by the Ukrainian state in the digitisation of educational materials during the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘The reasons for continuing Ukrainian education frequently relate to a desire to preserve one’s Ukrainian identity and language, but also to a fear that without a Ukrainian education, a child’s future prospects would be jeopardised. For the Ukrainian state, it is crucial to keep children involved in the national curriculum in order to increase the likelihood of their possible return,’ the authors explain.
The prospect of return is a determining factor in families’ educational choices. Those who plan to leave Germany as soon as possible are less motivated to send their children to a German school. At the same time, the daunting reality of the ongoing war has implications for the personal well-being of these respondents, and those who desire a quick return to Ukraine are the most likely to report feelings of lethargy. Conversely, those who intend to stay in Germany for the foreseeable future are more deeply involved in their local German communities.
Socio-economic inequalities reproduced
There is a correlation between the parents’ financial and social background and the extent to which they are involved in their children’s education. Those with a higher financial and social status are significantly more invested in their child’s education and articulate higher expectations for education in Germany. They generally push for their child to be included in regular rather than integration classes. Socio-economic inequalities in the country of origin are therefore reproduced in displacement. As the authors note, ‘To some degree, people flee with their financial, social, and international capital – or lack thereof.’
Different school systems
Educational systems and norms are vastly different in Germany and Ukraine. Some Ukrainian families express frustration about what they see as the poor quality of teaching in German schools and worry about the implications of this for an anticipated return. Another set of families, however, appreciates the child-centred education they have encountered, the respectful treatment of young people, and the sensitive ways in which German authorities deal with children fleeing war.
Irina Mützelburg, Félix Krawatzek: ‘Education and Displacement: Ukrainian Families in Germany’, ZOiS Report 1/2023.
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