Education hasn’t seen such a counterintuitive idea in a while.
According to a local Danish newspaper, a school in Aarhus, Denmark, has opted to begin the new school year with separate classes for ethnic Danes and migrant students. While the school does offer three “mixed” classes with an equal ratio of Danes and migrants, it also has four classes comprising migrant children only.
Is this the kind of educational segregation that the US’s troubled history with race in schools warns us to avoid? No, says the Danish school’s headmaster Yago Bundgaard:
At first glance what we do might be perceived as segregation, but I will argue that it is the opposite. All our students have equal access to A-levels, and all students have equal access to honors classes and special services.
This is our way of actually preventing segregation because [it] will help us [to keep ethnic Danes] enrolled in our school and make our school more diverse.
Segregation for diversity’s sake, however, isn’t an argument that’s sitting well with human rights advocates. Skepticism about the decision abounds, and Özlem Cekic, a Turkish-born Danish politician, condemned the school for “digging ditches” instead of building bridges in a Facebook post that’s been shared more than 2,500 times.
The Danish move comes as Europe’s refugee crisis is at a peak. In countries like Germany, schools are bulging with thousands of new students, many of them lacking adequate space or resources. The Aarhus school’s response to its sudden surge in minority students may not be the most tactful, but that—in and of itself—highlights just how crucial it is for Europe’s education systems to come up with thoughtful, long-term plans for addressing its new migrant student population.
You’d think a country known for its emphasis on teaching empathy would want to lead the charge.