Hamburg , Germany

From the Multicultural Classroom to the Multicultural Staff Room

Institute for Teacher Training and School Development (LI)

May 28, 2013

A unique network supports teachers with a migrant background and promotes intercultural education in German schools

In Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg, nearly 14% of the population is made up of immigrants. In schools, this can be even higher – overall, one-third of students in German schools have a migrant background. However, less than 5% of their teachers do. This is a missed opportunity to provide positive role models and teach cultural sensitivity that would benefit all young learners. With their multicultural and multilingual heritage, teachers with a migrant background are a great asset for German schools, will help break down stereotypes and offer exemplary models of immigrant integration.

To help close this gap, the “Teachers with Migration History” network [Hamburger Netzwerk „Lehrkräfte mit Migrationsgeschichte“] supports existing teachers with a migrant background, and encourages students to train to become teachers. Ultimately, the network aims to promote a vibrant, intercultural school system in Germany.

Supporting teachers with migrant background

The network helps those teachers who are already in the school system through capacity building and training. For example, it supports professional development for teachers with a migrant background, and has recently set up an online forum where its members can exchange information, share their experiences and support each other.

Where consultations with its members found that some teachers with a migrant background had experienced discrimination, the Network supported those teachers in addressing or finding resolutions to these incidents.

Encouraging students to become teachers

One of the network’s key long-term objectives is to diversify the teaching staff at Hamburg schools. To this end, it teamed up with the Zeit Foundation Ebelin and Gerd Bucerius to develop a “More Migrants as Teachers” project, which encourages students with a migrant background to train to become teachers. A four-day conference gives aspiring teachers an opportunity to hear from teachers with a migrant background and encourages them to choose a teaching career. The network has worked actively to recruit participants in this training. and has been relicated in other German cities such as Bremen.

In addition, the network works to promote the inclusion of internationally trained professionals in the Hamburg teaching profession. One of its greatest successes has been to work with the Ministry for Education and Vocational Training and regulatory institutions to simplify the accreditation process, thus enabling more teachers with a migrant background – especially those who gained teaching qualifications abroad – to work in German schools.

Promoting intercultural education and parent involvement

Another key objective is improving intercultural education in schools. The network has been working to develop modules in intercultural teaching that can be used by all teachers in German schools. It provides training on intercultural education, leadership, cultural mediation and intercultural consulting at Hamburg schools, for example. These modules are developed and delivered in cooperation with local authorities and regional partners such as foundations, academic institutions, migrant organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

More recently, it worked with the Counselling Centre of Intercultural Education and the Institute for Teacher Training and School Development to develop training so teachers can earn a formal qualification in “intercultural education.” This training and qualification has been available to teachers since February 2013.

Further, the network recognizes the importance of parental involvement in education. The network provides migrant parents with information on how the German school system functions and advises them on ways to increase their children’s success in school. The network acts in partnership with migrant organizations and offers counselling in the migrant families’ own language about the Hamburg school system.


The network now has 150 members, of which around 60 are actively involved in its programs through training and forums. What started as an informal network of professionals offering support to teachers has become a successful model that has been replicated widely and influenced the German school system itself. Other similar networks have emerged in Berlin, Hessen, Bremen and Stuttgart, highlighting the need for such supports across the country.

As a result of the network’s efforts, Hamburg has one of the highest proportions of students with a migrant background studying to become teachers in the country – at just over 20%, the network is on its way to building a teaching workforce that reflects Hamburg’s diverse student population.

Making it Work for You:

  • Facilitate peer learning and peer support for teachers with a migrant background.
  • Develop partnerships with mainstream education institutions to facilitate and encourage entry into the teaching profession for people with a migrant background.
  • Identify systemic barriers and possible solutions – for example, simplifying accreditation has helped the increase the number of teachers with a migrant background in the German school system.
  • Work with local mainstream educational structures to change the culture and processes of these institutions.

For this Good Idea contact:

Faried Ragab, Institute for Teacher Training and School Development (LI)
Felix-Dahn-Str. 3
Hamburg, Germany,

Lehrkräfte mit Migrationsgeschichte

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