Monday, March 15, 2010

Senior Matt Beck Gives Senior Presentation

Matt is has applied to be a Fulbright Scholar and Teaching Assistant in Germany or Austria in the fall. Here is Matt's senior thesis:

Immigration and the German School System: A Freirean Perspective (Immigration und das deutsche Schulsystem: Eine Freireanische Perspektive)

During the economic boom of the 1950's, Germany welcomed guest workers from other countries to help rebuild its economy. However, many politicians and educators assumed that these immigrants would eventually leave and thus created few accommodations for them in the school system. As a result, it has been difficult for immigrants to succeed within the school system, which limits higher education even for native Germans by tracking students after the fourth grade based on academic performance. In this project, I start with the premise that one needs language and cultural knowledge in order to be successful in any culture. I then show that because elementary school students who are immigrants lack these very skills, they often perform poorly and are tracked into the 'Hauptschule,' the academically least-demanding school in Germany. At the conclusion of their education, they begin low-paying jobs and find it difficult to provide a good education for their children. In order to improve the situation of immigrants in Germany, I suggest that a combination of Paulo Freire's critical pedagogy, multicultural education, and collaborative dialog may help elementary school students acquire both language and cultural knowledge. With these skills, students are more likely to be tracked into more rigorous schools. In addition, these methods empower immigrants by assuming that students are capable of improving their own lives through education. In this project, I draw upon theories of second language acquisition, works by educational theorists from Germany, America, and Canada, and the results of a questionnaire that I sent to elementary school teachers in Germany. The information and findings presented in this project have implications for anyone working with immigrants in an educational setting.

Good luck Matt!