Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz welcomes reform and has since summer 2015 called for early language support groups and German language skills promotion activities directed specifically at refugee children
The Integration Ministry welcomes the Schulrechtsänderungsgesetz (School Act Amendment Act), adopted today by the Council of Ministers, under which children with poor German language skills and especially those from a refugee and migration background have the opportunity to attend early language support groups. The act furthermore foresees enhanced provision of German language support classes. Since the very onset of the refugee crisis both the Expert Council for Integration and Minister for Integration Sebastian Kurz have highlighted the need for expanding language tuition and language support activities in schools.
“We have for a long time now been calling for language tuition groups and intensive language support directed at refugee children. Children who come to Austria without any knowledge of German deserve a good start when entering the Austrian school system. This will be most successfully accomplished by providing intensive language tuition and support to prepare them in a targeted manner for their entry into the Austrian school system. This decision thus marks the first step into the right direction”, stressed Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz. It is not conducive to put children, who do not yet know how to read or write in German or still have insufficient German skills, into a class in which their class mates will already be taking their first written exams.
Intensive language support to facilitate entry into the Austrian school system
Refugee children in particular will benefit from early language support groups in the context of which they are prepared for regular lessons held in German. The newly adopted measures will, however, also prove beneficial for children who do not yet have sufficient skills in German as erudite language. Groups of a minimum of eight children may thus practice their German skills, and eleven hours of language support lessons are provided every week. Building on these early language support groups, children may, as required, also attend language support classes.
First steps towards targeted language support at schools
The debate on language support at schools had for a long time been characterised by mainly ideological considerations. Now the Council of Ministers has succeeded in agreeing on the launch of initial targeted support. “It had become very clear over the last year that schools are in need of a legalized basis for the provision of German language classes. Having taken this decision we are now on the right track. German language skills are the key to successful integration. By providing targeted and timely language support for school pupils, we facilitate more rapid integration and may also enable them to do better in class”, Sebastian Kurz stated. Right from the beginning, early language support will be subject to ongoing evaluation. To this end, special support formats will be developed for schools that are not located in the larger conurbations, as here too, there is a need for targeted language support, although the number of pupils affected is comparatively small.
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