„Dialog macht Schule“ is a new German education programme. The programme’s name is a play on words: Schule machen is a German idiom meaning to spread, to be imitated, to catch on. The basis of the company’s activities is taking dialogue into schools thus promoting a new school culture (which we hope will catch on and be imitated). The programme brings together personal development, civic education and integration in a new way. University students, most of them with their own immigration background, are trained to become tutors of a learning process – we call them dialogue facilitators – and will accompany students from the 7th form (i.e. the age of about 13) in weekly sessions within normal class schedules or in voluntary study groups over a period of 2-3 years.
A new generation of children from immigrant families is now visiting German schools and their number will increase steadily in the next few years. Today the percentage of children from immigrant families in nurseries and schools of large German cities can sometimes exceed 50%. Many of them come from socially disadvantaged and not learning-oriented families and do not have much chance to succeed in the German education system. In addition they often feel under severe pressure to choose between the traditional values of their parents and those promoted and imparted in German schools. This feeling of being caught in the middle is often accompanied by identity conflicts and low self-esteem, which may lead to frustration, aggression and radicalisation. On the other hand, schools and other educational institutions often are ill equipped to deal with this conflict. Potentials and resources of pupils and students with a multicultural background, in particular those coming from not learning-oriented environments, remain unnoticed and are not nurtured and promoted. There is not enough support for their own (political) educational process, for their political participation and for their taking part in a democratic society.
Dialog macht Schule addresses these young people directly. We start from their personal stories and issues taken from their experiences in their specific environments. We create spaces of trust in the schools we work in, where these young people can get to know each other in a different way and can work together in discovering their unrecognized potentials and resources. They can discuss subjects and issues such as basic and human rights, identity, home, religion, bullying, mobbing and racism and come to understand them in a new way. The aim is to show them chances and ways to participate in a democracy and to try them out in joint activities.
Dialogue and reflection are the basis of our work – in our sessions as well as in all our activities and long-term projects. We accompany our students over a period of 2-3 years on their way to become self-confident actors in society. This long-term approach, together with our work in schools, enables us to contribute sustainably to the development of the personal, social and democratic competencies of these young people. At the same time we build bridges between students and teachers again contributing to a dialogue-oriented and democratic school culture.
Our own history
Dialog macht Schule started out in 2009 as a pilot project led by Christoph Müller-Hofstede of the German Federal Agency for Civic Education and promoted by the Robert Bosch Foundation. It was called “Youth, Religion and Democracy: Civic Education of Young People in an Immigration Society”. The aim was to find out how to gain new access to young people who are thought to be indifferent to politics and often do not perceive themselves as part of German society. In their practical work at schools, dialogue facilitators from Berlin and Stuttgart tried out various approaches, which were continuously evaluated over three years. The scientific evaluation of the project was performed by the TU Dresden. It confirmed that Dialog macht Schule has successfully gained a new approach to the target group.
In 2013, psychologist Siamak Ahmadi and communications expert Hassan Asfour founded Dialog macht Schule gGmbH, a non-profit private company. The dialogue facilitators who had worked for the project since 2011 have participated in the conception of the training and have refined content and methodology of the project. Dialog macht Schule remains true to its learning and experimental nature and is continuously further developed.