A regional court in Germany that heard the case of a Jordanian child seeking to attend an Islamic school has ruled that the children of foreigners within its jurisdiction must attend public schools.
The decision, announced by German court officials late last month, said that allowing children of foreigners to attend private schools would encourage the development of parallel societies, rather than cultural integration.
German officials, however, offered different interpretations of the scope and meaning of the ruling.
A written statement issued by the court for the Rhineland-Pflaz region, known as an Oberverwaltungsgericht, suggested that the ruling would prevent children of foreigners who have moved to Germany and established permanent residence from attending private schools. That ruling would not apply to judicial regions outside Rhineland-Pflaz, said Manfred Stamm, a spokesman for the court, located in the west German city of Koblenz. The decision also would not apply to students who are living temporarily in the country, he said, such as children of diplomats.
But Patricia Krieger, an official with the ministry of education in Rhineland-Pflaz, said in an e-mail that children of foreigners in that region could still attend private schools, as long as those institutions were accredited by the German government.
The child in the case was attending a Muslim school in Bonn that has come under increasing scrutiny from the German government, according to numerous media reports. German officials have alleged that the school has encouraged religious extremism and rejected secular instruction.
The ruling meshes with recent societal and political trends in Germany, said Luise McCarty, an associate professor of education at Indiana University Bloomington, who has studied school policy in that country. With the arrival of new immigrants, particularly from Russia and the former Soviet republics, political leaders have sought ways to help newcomers learn German and fit into society, believing it will strengthen the country economically and culturally, said Ms. McCarty, a native of Germany.
Coverage of cultural understanding and international issues in education is supported in part by the Atlantic Philanthropies.