Germany’s response to the refugee crisis: Hire thousands of new teachers

Germany has recruited 8,500 new teachers to teach German to the 196,000 refugees who have entered its education system this year. More than 1 million refugees entered the country in 2015.

More than 8,000 special classes have been set up in schools to help the new pupils with learning German, according to a survey of all of the country’s 16 federal states, Die Welt reported this weekend (link in German). The new hire numbers suggest a ratio of about one German language teacher for every 23 refugee students; that compares to Germany’s national average of one teacher for every 12 students, 1:14 in the United States, and 1:18 in the United Kingdom.

A total of 325,000 school-aged children from Syria, Afghanistan, and African countries have arrived in Germany this year, and according to Heinz-Peter Meidinger, head of a teacher’s union, the country will need up to 20,000 new teachers to fill the gap in teaching personnel.

But the challenge is far larger than simply teaching the foreign students a new language. Many of refugee children have lost years of education (2.6 million Syrian children are not in school), some of them don’t know a single written language. One in five of the children arriving in Germany as refugees have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and half have experienced significant trauma, the Guardian reports.

While Germany has received praise for its willingness to take in refugees, xenophobic sentiments are also on the rise within the country. Attacks on shelters housing migrants increased more than four-fold in 2015, according to German authorities, and continued through Christmas week.

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