Helene-Lange-Gymnasium (2016)

A Refugee Integration Course System

3rd place solution of the YES! 2016

Introduction
According to UNHCR Global Trends, more than 65 million people were forcibly displaced from home; among those are more than 21 million refugees seeking protection abroad. Since 2013, almost 1.4 million people applied for asylum in Germany, more than 650.000 people applied already in 2016 (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, 2016). The influx of so many people poses serious challenges to administrations and the countries’ infrastructure. It is still unclear how these numbers will evolve over time, but independent of this, it is important to ensure integration of those people into the educational system, the labour market and society (Brücker, 2015).
As Hinte, Rinne and Zimmermann (2015) highlight, refugees should not be considered a burden, but an investment in the future. According to IAB (8/2015) estimates, roughly ¾ of asylum seekers are working age and could be an enormous benefit for the labour market in the medium and long run. Language skills, education and a job are often times named as key factors for integration.
Resilient data about the qualification level and work experience of refugees coming to Germany is still scarce. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Rich, 2016) collected data about social structure, level of qualification and employment on a voluntary basis of first-time asylum applicants during the application procedure. Even though the explanatory power of those data has to be handled with care, they give a good overview and estimate about social component of the people seeking asylum in Germany. The data show that qualification and schooling varies a lot between refugees and their countries of origin. A lot of asylum seekers are still of an age where they have not completed their education or finished university. Almost 1/3 of refugees’ (mostly from Iraq, Afghanistan, Serbia and Macedonia) stated to have no formal schooling or only completed primary school. Even refugees with medium or good education levels will most likely need time to get fit for the labour market since they often lack language skills and vocational training. An easy, efficient and versatile system is needed to meet all the different needs of refugees, with diverse backgrounds, knowledge and skills, to ensure successful integration.
1.4 Million Refugees. 1.4 Million People. 1.4 Million Stories.
How can we adequately take care of those people coming to Germany and how can we successfully integrate them? This seems like a huge and highly demanding task, but often, small ideas and alterations can improve the existing system in a sustainable way. This is why we came up with the Refugee Integration Course System. It is easy, efficient and individual.

The Refugee Integration Course System
The refugee integration course system is a highly customizable and individual system that allows refugees to get graduation and facilitates the transition to working force.

Admission to the Refugee Integration Course System 
The refugee integration course system is designed to fit a large part of migrants coming to Germany. Even though, there are some basic conditions needed to be met by applicants. First of all, the refugee has to have been granted asylum, he or she needs basic language skills, i.e. Goethe-B1 certificate, and has to have completed the integration course of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). Furthermore, applicable participants of
the refugee integration course system must be above school age. German citizens are also eligible to the course system, but they also must have completed compulsory education.

The process of the Refugee Integration Course System
After being admitted to the program, the refugee completes a two-week internship. During this time, his or her educational and social skills are being scrutinized and evaluated. Afterwards, the employer can give an assessment of the refugee’s skills and the participant has to take a school qualification test. Based on this test and the employer’s assessment of the practical and social skills of the refugee, he or she is classified into a course that fits his
or her previous education and all in all at its best.
There are nine different course levels (level 1-9) according to the curricular of public schooling (grades 1 to 13) in Germany and corresponding to the different German degrees, i.e. Hauptschulabschluss. Mittlere Reife and Hochschulreife. The classification to the course level applies to all mandatory subjects, but it is possible to get individual support if needed in some subjects. Unless the regular curricular of a high school, the course system only covers a reduced subject range, namely German, Mathematics, English, Social Studies and Physical Education. Each course has a duration of only three months and is held on a regular basis throughout the year. So it is possible to redo courses when needed and the waiting period to start a course is limited. The compact coursework limits the time required to complete each course and enhances efficiency.
After the completion of all the necessary courses, participants are graduating with a fully fledged school leaving certificate. With this acquired qualification, the refugees are now ready for the labour market. They can either look for an apprenticeship training position or start a long-term internship for further orientation.

Benefits of the Refugee Integration Course System
The refugee integration course system provides a lot of advantages for the refugee as well as for society. First of all, it speeds-up the academic qualification process of refugees, due to a compact coursework and a highly flexible admission to different courses. Individualisation is the second big advantage of the system. The refugees can enter the course system according to their previous attended schooling, acquired knowledge and skills. This way it is highly customisable to each individual and training time can be kept as short as possible by taking previous experiences into account. As mentioned before, language skills, education and a job are often considered key factors for a successful integration. The refugee integration course system pools those factors, by offering sound schooling combined with practical experiences. The refugees get personal contact and become part of society. By considering and promoting social, professional and academic skills during the refugee integration course system, the refugees boost their chances for a good job and a satisfying work life. Even though the course system afflicts public spending at first, in the medium-long run, it facilitates the labour market integration of refugees, which in turn lessens the pressure on social security transfers.

Practical considerations
The courses will be held by qualified and specially trained teachers. The premises of educational institutions can be used. Of course, the implementation and realisation of the course system come with costs. Teachers, teaching materials, premises and transportation have to be paid for. However, the
efficient assignment of teachers to the different courses as needed, as well as the usage of modern technologies like e-book readers will help to keep the costs low.

Incentives to Take Part in the Refugee Integration Course System
For refugees taking part in the refugee integration course system means to forego possible short-term earnings (when they manage to get a job without graduation). But after successfully completing the course system and having a fully-fledged certificate, they have better chances to get a well-paid job offer and have higher earnings in the future.
Furthermore, the system is a good mechanism for getting fully integrated into society. Another important key factor for the success of the course system is the involvement of firms which are willing to offer internships to refugees and to take the time and put in an effort to scrutinize and evaluate the working skills of the refugees. The participating firms will get a certificate stating their involvement in this project and acknowledging their commitment to take over social responsibility. Furthermore, taking part can be seen as a long-term
investment into the workforce, counteracting the threat of skills shortage.

Conclusion
With the influx of hundred thousands of refugees each year, measures have to been taken to ensure successful integration of refugees into society. Furthermore, it would pass up a chance to not invest in the advanced training of refugees, especially taking the demographics and the skills shortage German firms are facing, into account. Especially looking at the diverse educational backgrounds and skills of the asylum seekers coming to Germany, a versatile and flexible system is needed to support the refugees in a way that suits their strength and weaknesses.
The refugee integration course system offers an efficient and highly individual way to endow refugees with a fully-fledged school leaving certificate, which provides them with the necessary prerequisites and starting conditions to start vocational training and get a good job later on.

Winning team YES! 2017 - BBS Wirtschaft 1 Ludwigshafen

Photo: YES!