Combatting Stereotypes With Facts | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 15.12.2004
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Combatting Stereotypes With Facts

Though stereotypes about foreigners continue to proliferate in Germany, a new study is challenging some beliefs about immigrant girls. They're far more ambitious and career aware than they're given credit for.


Looking ahead to a good education

At a time when the debate over the integration of foreigners into German society dominates the national headlines -- and stereotypes about immigrants persist -- a study released on Tuesday is helping to challenge some of the worst clichés.

Most notably, the study of 950 young immigrant women between the ages of 15 and 21, performed at the request of the German ministry responsible for women's affairs showed that young immigrant women are far more career aware and ambitious than stereotypes suggest. However, they suffer from certain handicaps, though oppressive, traditional families -- as stereotypes suggest -- are not neccessarily one of them. Instead, insufficient language skills was named a culprit.

The government's integration commissioner, Marieluise Beck, said she hopes to use the results to push for better resources to help young immigrant women achieve their goals.

Education and training a priority

Studentin in Magdeburg

Immigrant girls are taking excellent notes

Of the women surveyed, who came from including Yugoslavian, Greek, Turkish, Italian and other backgrounds, the majority hoped to take advantage of Germany's education and training opportunities to pursue a career -- in addition to starting a family. According to the study, 83 percent planned to contribute financially to their fanily's income.

Particularly in the case of young Turkish immigrants, who are often stereotyped as traditional and family-oriented, the results challenged the cliches, Beck pointed out at a press conference in Berlin on Tuesday.

"In the political discussion, young women from Muslim households are far too often unfairly assumed to be growing up in oppressive households," added Ursula Boos-Nünning, of the University of Duisburg-Essen, one of the co-authors of the study. In fact, parents of Muslim immigrants attach a great deal of importance to education, she added, though they themselves may be poorly educated and, therefore, unable to provide help with school assignments.

More help overcoming handicaps

In an effort to explain the girls' comparatively poorer rates of success, the authors of the study blamed insufficient educational resources that don't help young immigrants make up language deficits, particularly problematic since many don't learn German until they enter school. More than 72 percent of tho women surveyed said they first learned German in school.

"With such a system, those who come from underprivileged families, and particularly underprivileged immigrant families, will remain underprivileged," said Beck. She called for more resources, including additional tutoring, to help young immigrant women overcome such handicaps.

Integration and tradition important

Unterricht türkische Schülerinnen mit Kopftuch im Schulzentrum in Bremen

For many, education and tradition are important

Despite these challenges, the survey concluded, the immigrants believed their best future prospects were in Germany. They also still thought family and tradition was important.

"In all aspects related to their ability to function in German society -- the extent to which they were willing to make themselves understood, whether they sought out contact with the dominant culture -- the young women questioned in the survey were strongly willing to integrate," said Yasemin Karakasoglu of the Universtiy of Essen/Duisburg, another co-author of the study.

"But on points that would require them to distance themselves from their family and cultural tradition, they were far less willing to try and fit in," she added.

In short, the young women in the study said yes both to integration and tradition. Finding the balance between the two continues to be a matter of debate.

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