Academic Achievement Among Different Groups in Germany

Differences in academic achievement among different ethnic groups in Germany is a topic that has drawn the interest of the German academic and scientific communities.

To properly understand ethnic group differences in academic attainment in Germany, it must be understood that different ethnic groups in Germany have different histories of immigration. For example, one reason why the Italians are doing so poorly is that most of their ancestors arrived as unskilled Gastarbeiter. However socioeconomic factors cannot explain all the differences. The Spanish, for example, also arrived as Gastarbeiter, but soon started moving up the social ladder. This difference has been attributed to culture.

In Germany Hauptschulen, Realschulen and Gymnasien (schools of the tripartite system) exist alongside comprehensive schools such as the Gesamtschule. Most of the studies presented in this article deal only with the schools of the tripartite system and do not consider students attending a comprehensive.

Persons holding different citizenships
A study released by the OECD showed that immigrants in Germany perform much less well at school than their counterparts elsewhere, and they are also less likely to attend selective schools such as the Realschule or the Gymnasium (university preparatory school).

German scientist Dietrich Thränhardt commented that statements about immigrants were not meaningful, as immigrants come from a number of countries and immigrants from some countries were doing well, while others were doing poorly.

One of the groups performing least well were students of Italian citizenship, who were more likely to attend a special education school than a Gymnasium. Most Italian students attended a Hauptschule.

Students holding Spanish, Russian, Croatian, or Bosnian citizenship were more likely to attend a Realschule or a Gymnasium than they were to attend a Hauptschule. They were achieving as well as Germans.

Students holding a Turkish passport were more likely to attend the Hauptschule (a school that teaches at a slower path than Realschule or Gymnasium), however some groups holding a Turkish passport such as the Alevi were more successful.

Ethnic group differences
Second generation Greek students were more likely to attend a Gymnasium (college preparatory school) than their ethnic German counterparts. The same was true for students belonging to the Chinese or the Jewish-Russian minority.

No other ethnic group in Germany were as successful as the Vietnamese, 50% of whom attended a Gymnasium, and the Koreans, 70% of whom attended a Gymnasium.

Educational attainment of Muslim students differed by ethnic group. While 50.2% of students from Iran attended either a Realschule or a Gymnasium, only 12.7% of Lebanese students attended one of those schools.

The following tables use the German grading system. 1 is the best grade, and 6 is the worst. Former Yugoslavian students will be considered as one group in the following tables; however differences exists between different ethnic groups from former Yugoslavia when it come to educational attainment.

Academic grades differed by ethnic groups:
Academic Grade received for performance in German language class (by ethnic group)

Academic Grade Turkish Italian former Yugoslavian person of German or partial German ancestry not born in Germany person of German ancestry born in Germany
1.0 to 2.4 6.3% 6.7% 19.8% 22.3% 33.5%
2.5 to 3.0 18.9% 12.2% 18.9% 26.9% 26.2%
3.1 to 6.0 74.4% 81.1% 61.3% 50.8% 40.3%

Academic Grade received for performance in math class (by ethnic group)
1 is the best grade, and 6 is the worst.

Academic grade Turkish Italian former Yugoslavian person of German or partial German ancestry not born in Germany person of German ancestry born in Germany
1.0 to 2.4 14.9% 11.1% 23.6% 33.7% 36.9%
2.5 to 3.0 20.5% 14.4% 20.8% 31.1% 24.7%
3.1 to 6.0 64.4% 74.4% 55.7% 35.3% 38.4%

Percentage of students accepted by a Realschule or a Gymnasium after primary school graduation by ethnic group (only students that attend Hauptschule, Realschule or Gymnasium are counted for this statistic; students that attend a comprehensive or another school are not counted)

School Turkish Italian former Yugoslavian person of German or partial German ancestry not born in Germany person of German ancestry born in Germany
students accepted at a Gymnasium 8.6% 7.8% 20.8% 28.2% 34.5%
students accepted at a Realschule 16.2% 10.6% 19.8% 34.0% 30.1%
students attending a Hauptschule 75.3% 81.7% 59.4% 37.9% 35.4%

According to a study, academic grades played a vital role in determining whether a student was accepted at the Realschule or Gymnasium. However academic grades were not the only factors influencing Realschule attendance. Even if grades were controlled, ethnic Germans were somewhat more likely to be accepted for a Realschule. Gymnasium acceptance however was not influenced by ethnic group if grades were controlled.

Immigrant children attending a primary school that was attended by other immigrant children showed poorer academic performance than immigrant children that attended a school that was less diverse. According to a study immigrant children were more likely than ethnic Germans to attend a school that underperformed other schools. Immigrant children that attended a primary school which had many immigrant students were less likely than students attending a less diverse school to be accepted at a Realschule or a Gymnasium. However another study found that:

In sum, frame of reference effects can be found for educational achievement (big-fish-little-pond-effect), but not for a class's migration background.

Alba et al. found that while Turkish and Italian immigrants did worse than would be predicted by their IQs, that was not true for Greek immigrants.