Repairing the Cultural Divide: Integration, Education, and the Turkish Community in Berlin

It took little more than a decade for Germany to become a multicultural land.

In the early 1960s, under the strain of an economic boom, and without a proper workforce to carry the load, the West German government forged an agreement with the Turkish government to allow temporary laborers to enter the country. Over the course of the 12-year program, over one million workers immigrated to Germany, their families following in their wake, laying the footprint for a Turkish diaspora in Germany, now estimated at around three million.

Misguided integration policies failed to launch, stunting this group economically and socially for decades to come; traditional German structures, such as the tripartite education system, were never recalibrated for the country’s new heterogeneous population.

Some 50 years later in Berlin—the city with the largest Turkish population outside of Turkey itself—progressive measures have been taken to remedy the failures of the past: A new education system seeks to cultivate equal opportunity.

But are educational reforms enough to repair the cultural divide?

Being Turkish in Berlin

What’s it like to be Turkish in Berlin? Five individuals explain their experiences living and working with intersecting identities in Germany.

Mother Tongue First, German Second

Immigrant mothers in the borough of Neukölln in Berlin view a command of their native language as crucial for establishing identity and obtaining educational success.