Educational integration on the rise?

Watch this TV spot and then decide: School for all – yes or no? The United Nations estimates that in an inclusive education system, 90% of all children with disabilities attend a mainstream school. The Scandinavian countries, England and Italy have reached this quota long ago. Germany, however, has still a long way to go.

Why is Germany so far behind?

Camilla Dawletschin-Linder, chair of the German federal working group Gemeinsam leben – gemeinsam lernen  (eng.: Live together – learn together), has no answer either.

"You don’t have to invent anything new. In Germany, there are schools in which integration has been on the program for over 25 years", says Camilla Dawletschin-Linder. The greater is the lack of understanding why it is so hard to implement the integration of children with disabilities in regular schools.

“The German special schools are very strongly interested in having a certain amount of pupils”, explains Dawletschin-Linder. The association of special education are convinced that the children in the special school would be better off, assumes the chair of the German federal working group Gemeinsam leben – gemeinsam lernen.

Parents are for integration of disabled children

Many parents are not convinced at all by the special schools’ thinking. They want their disabled children to be allowed to go to a regular school.

Unbelievable but true: This wish usually remains unfulfilled in Germany, and children with disabilities have to attend a special school against the will of their parents. “This problem is not solved with the UN convention at all”, knows the chair of the parents’ organisation “mittendrin” (eng.: “in the middle”).

The parents’ organisation “mittendrin e.V” promotes since 2006 that all children, with and without disability, can attend school together. “If someone wants to live integrated as an adult, he/she should be allowed to learn this already as a child”, the credo of the organisation.

How rocky the path for a disabled child is in regular schools also depends on where in Germany it lives. In Bremen, for example, almost half of all disabled children visited a regular school. In Bavaria, the integration rate is at 12.5%, Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt at about 5%.

Row of school bags. (picture: rebel,
Parents of disabled children often have to fight for the right to educational integration. (picture: rebel,

Right to Integration

The international law expert Professor Eibe Riedel believes that the exclusion from the common school is a violation of human rights of children.

According to the central insight of advice from international experts on the basis of the UN Convention of Disability Rights, there is a legal right that child can always attend a mainstream school if the parents wish so. This claim has come into effect since the Convention came into force in Germany, according to Riedel.

In the new school laws of Hamburg and Bremen, the right to inclusion in mainstream schools is already enshrined. According to Camilla Dawletschin-Linder, every child has the right to attend regular school in these two provinces from next school year on.

"Every child has the right to regular school. That is not a free choice of the parents," says Dawletschin-Linder.

Worth fighting

Currently, the decision to “fight” for a regular school place or not is still a decision of the parents. The parents’ organisation “mittendrin” has two advise centre for parents of children with a disability, in Cologne and Frankfurt, which are the contact points for parents from all over Germany.

Dawletschin-Linder advises parents to join forces and try to fend for the enrolment of their disabled children in the nearest school.

Despite very little progress in recent years, the chair of the German federal working group Gemeinsam leben – gemeinsam lernen sees the nationwide integration of children with disabilities in regular schools positive. Camilla Dawletschin-Linder is convinced: "We will do it!"

Text: MHA

Translation: MPL