On 23 January 2014, I spoke with Mostapha Boukllouâ, coordinator of the network of teachers with a migrant background in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, in order for him to tell me more about the project and their work in the field of migrant education.
SIRIUS: Why was the project “Lehrkräfte mit Zuwanderungsgeschichte” (teachers with a migrant background) set up?
Mostapha Boukllouâ: The project “teachers with a migrant background” was initiated in 2006 by the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Integration. At the time, about 30 per cent of pupils had a migrant background. The percentage of teachers with such a background, by contrast, was estimated at only around 2 per cent. Recent statistics show that the proportion of teachers in Germany who have an immigrant background is 4.7 per cent. Against the background of the “Action Plan Integration”, the then state government of North Rhine-Westphalia therefore decided to increase the share of teachers with an immigrant background. For this purpose, the “network of teachers with a migrant background” was established in 2007. It attracted widespread publicity because it was the first network of its kind in Germany.
SIRIUS: How is the network run?
Mostapha Boukllouâ: The project is run by the coordinating body of the municipal integration centres (Landesweite Koordinierungsstelle Kommunale Integrationszentren – LaKI) but we have our own office which is located in Düsseldorf. The Ministry of Education provides two teaching positions by secondment, i.e. myself working full-time for the project and two colleagues who work part-time for the project and continue teaching in school. Our office is financed by the Ministry of Integration. Currently, about 540 teachers with a migrant background are organized within the network.
SIRIUS: What are the main goals and activities of the network?
One of our starting points is the idea that teachers with an immigrant background act as role models: on the one hand as ‘education ambassadors’ demonstrating the possibility of social mobility through education and, on the other hand, as ‘integration ambassadors’ of different cultures. Another function can be seen in their role as mediators. A common metaphor is the one of building bridges to pupils and parents with an immigrant background and back to the teaching staff in schools.
Based on these principles the network has defined three main areas of activities:
1. Attract potential
The first area of activities aims at attracting prospective high-school graduates with an immigrant history to the teaching profession. For three years, we organized in cooperation with three foundations (ZEIT-, Hertie- und Sir Peter Ustinov Stiftung) the so-called student campus during which interested students with a migrant background got familiar with all facets of the profession – from aptitude tests to preparing classes. In 2013, the student campus was for the first time conducted by the University of Dortmund and as a cooperating partner we were responsible for its content. It is very important for us to emphasize the migrant-specific potentials in the context of teaching.
2. Accompany training
In the scope of the second field of activities we accompany university students and student teachers during their training. We work together with universities to establish internal networks for their students with a migrant background to connect, exchange information and benefit from peer-to-peer learning. We also cooperate with the teacher’s training centres (Studienseminare) to provide advice. Thematic workshops are regularly organized covering topics related to migration, diversity and inclusion and are open to both students with and without migration background.
Another important aspect is also awareness rising about intercultural issues among trainers. Dealing with cultural diversity is a new and mandatory element of the teacher training in North Rhine-Westphalia but its implementation is still challenging. Cooperation with trainers is especially important considering that they are the multipliers reaching out to numerous student teachers. We also advocate for employing trainers with a migrant background in the future. This is part of our third area of activities.
3. Shape staff development
Here we aim to assist and qualify those who already work as teachers and equip them with professional and personal skills to eventually take up leading positions. In our experience, teachers with a migrant background are highly motivated and frustration in case of failure is experienced correspondingly. That is why we also exercise self-coaching for our colleagues.
Last year, further training courses for teachers included a series on ‘intercultural moderation’ for them to reach out as speakers themselves. Another current series of workshops of several days’ duration aims at developing and implementing an integration concept in one’s own school. This can, for example, be a rather structural or language-related concept or refer to the work with parents. The interest in all these trainings is huge so that we will continue providing them this year together with our partners (various foundations, the trade union for education and science, and others).
In addition to all that, we organize annual conferences for teachers with a migrant background to gather, exchange experiences and ideas, discuss and take part in practical workshops.
SIRIUS: How do you reach out to members, the general public and education experts?
Mostapha Boukllouâ: Since last year, we have a completely new public appearance. We now have our own website with a separate forum for members as well as our own publications. Our newsletter is published every two to three weeks and informs about our own but also any other news and activities of importance to our target group. Besides the more than 500 network members, we also reach out to just as many partners including training centres, universities, teacher’s associations, other migrant organizations, political representatives – briefly speaking, to all stakeholders concerned with (migrant) education.
We work independently but try to cooperate with and bring together various partners. This is also a way for us to raise awareness about our ideas and concerns. We will shortly re-publish a report that we worked on in cooperation with the association of philologists on intercultural opening of secondary schools, raising awareness about the advantages to employ teachers with a migrant background.
Finally, one of our medium-term goals is to explore ways to expand the network of teachers with a migration background to a nationwide network in Germany.
By Katharina Bürkin