Campus Rütli CR²
It started in 2006 with the “Brand brief” or “Fire Letter” to the government which stated the magnitude of the situation. At the Rütli-Schule in Neukölln things had gotten out of hand. The students were out of control, the teachers were no longer effective, and the security of both parties was degrading. The school was considered the worst in Germany, and it seemed there was no way to turn things around without wiping the slate clean and starting from scratch. With a Turkish population of about 90% there was a huge social and cultural disconnect between these students of migrant background and the system they were supposed to operate in. After the guest-workers of the ’60s and ’70s decided to stay (instead of returning home as expected) little to no thought was given to education and assimilation. The “three-channel system” that exists throughout Germany was in place and was not working for this population. Under this system students are split up early on to work towards very different goals ranging from practical trades to university attendance. There was, and still is, a stigma against the “Realschule” where “practically oriented” students go as preparation for vocational training later in life. Students are sorted right out of primary school, and have little say in determining their own future. The decision was made to undertake a pilot program here in the Neukölln district of Berlin that would turn this system on its head. Our group was invited to come to the school and speak with both the administration and the students about all aspects of the school. Our meeting with the principle laid out the philosophy and structure that the new campus would advocate, and provided a much deeper understanding of the needs of the students as well as the response. The project aims to change the entire system to empower students to choose their own path. It is one school, not three. It runs all day, not just until early afternoon as usual. Parental involvement is a key feature, and ambassadors are in place to welcome them and to help get families involved and invested in their child’s education. The question was “How can we make education possible for people with a difficult social background?” One important realization was that fluency in a child’s mother tongue is extremely beneficial for a second language and for education overall. Campus Rütli (CR²) is not exactly the first of its kind, but parts are extraordinary in the aspects of community engagement, youth programs, arts, after hours programming, language support, sports, etc. School is only one part of Campus Rütli. It includes two Kindergartens, classes through grade 13, a gymnasium, adult job placement, social services, a theater, and more. This is the new idea, and it has had very promising results so far. In Berlin the average drop-out rate is 11%. Now at Campus Rütli it is 3.5%. While many schools in Germany are a place only for studying, Campus Rütli has evolved into a community unto itself. This is not simply because the administration has a big heart, but also because of the advantages it results in for the country as a whole to include and support the next generation of workers and innovators. It is an incredibly exciting and promising venture that aims to provide a new model for education in Germany. It is still quite young, and the first batch of graduates are now preparing for their exit exams. Time will tell whether the model is feasible and sustainable, yet with such a comprehensive and compassionate approach it is hard to envision anything but continued success.