Carsten Linnemann, deputy chair of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) on Monday told German daily Rheinische Post: “To put it in a nutshell: a child who barely speaks and understands German has no place yet in a primary school.”
Linnemann called for tougher pre-matriculation language requirements, saying that these children—whose parents are migrants and asylum seekers—have a negative impact on their German-fluent classmates, as well as on the quality of education in German public schools as a whole.
“It costs money, but a lack of integration and education are much more expensive at the end of the day,” Linnemann said, preferring a process to delay these children’s admittance into public schools to prepare them better.
The senior MP’s statements predictably drew condemnation from inside the CDU and from its political foes, in the middle of two tough elections due next month in two eastern German states—exactly where immigration and integration issues can dominate the debate.
Karin Prien, the CDU education minister in Schleswig-Holstein, told German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung that “a call for children with insufficient German language abilities to be excluded from compulsory education is populist nonsense,” and “the completely wrong path.”
Katja Kipping, chairperson of Germany’s socialist Left Party, tweeted that if Linnemann really wanted better conditions in schools, he could work for more teachers and inform himself about the fact that children who have constant exchanges with German speakers learn the language more quickly.”
It should be noted that Merkel’s coalition government is in an ongoing feud with its more conservative sister party, the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), over tougher immigration controls.