'Make them sweep up if they don't speak German'

3rd February 2006 at 00:00

Pupils who speak languages other than German in school should be forced to sweep up as a punishment, an MP is demanding.

Herbert-Hoover school, which is located in a poor immigrant area in Berlin, has become the focus of a nationwide debate about what languages should be spoken after it imposed a ban on speaking other languages in school hours.

Five other secondary schools have followed suit in a bid to improve the language skills and integration of non-German speaking children. It has support from politicians and education experts.

Politician Robert Heinemann, education spokesman for the ruling Christian Democratic Union in Hamburg State, said: "Integration begins with language.

If pupils from minority groups do not adhere to the rules, teachers should be allowed to impose appropriate punishments. Pupils who do not speak German should be made to sweep the schoolyard."

Jutta Steinkamp, headteacher of Herbert-Hoover, where 90 per cent of pupils are not native German speakers, says the rules are important for the future careers of her pupils. "They will never get a job or training place without good German skills," she said.

Robert Hasse, head of the Carl-Friedrich-Zelter high school, also in the capital, has also introduced the rule.

"There is more equality in the playground as different ethnic groups will not be excluded on the basis that they cannot understand their classmates,"

he said.

If students slip into their mother tongue, they are given a warning by their teacher followed by being sent to the head for a talk About 8.5 per cent of Germany's residents are from other countries, including 2.4 per cent from Turkey. The German Union of Teachers is encouraging other schools to adopt the policy to speed the integration of children from minority groups. But a national debate was sparked by criticism from a Turkish newspaper and some politicians. And school officials have rejected the sweeping punishment as "absurd".

Green party spokesperson for education and migration policies, Ozcan Mutlu, said: "This kind of ban is okay in lessons but it has gone too far. The rule is discriminatory towards the non-German pupils who make up 90 per cent of the student population in many of these schools."

The Islamic Council has approved the ban if parents agree to it, but the Federation of Turkish Parents' Associations expressed its "outrage".

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