The Rütli school had become notorious all over Germany in 2006, when the national press had reported a general climate of insecurity, as well as some incidents that had occurred within the school, with pupils allegedly threatening and attacking teachers and school staff. The school Rector had addressed an open letter to the authorities, asking for immediate help and denouncing the situation offering no future whatsoever to its pupils (and especially to that 83% of foreign origin or family). The Rector was correctly pointing out that it is impossible to try and integrate pupils of Turkish and Arabic origin in a school system that did not have any faciltators and/or mediators of the same origins, and was also pointing her finger at the difficulties the school system has to encourage the academic achievement of pupils of working class migration backgrounds.
A few years years later, the situation appears to have completely changed: the Rütli School has been thoroughly reorganised, with a new pattern of “joint school” (Gemeinschaftsschule) in which primary school, Hauptschule and Realschule and Gymnasium are merged together into a single, continuous path that keeps together pupils from their sixth year of age through to 18. In a way, the experiment of the Rütli school could become a forerunner of the future reorganisation of the whole German school system.
The campus hosts a day care centre, a sport centre and a youth centre. There is also a general and broad cultural offer for adults, in the first place for parents, though not exclusively for them. The leading idea is to bring together school and local neighbourhood life, so that the Campus offers something to all inhabitants of the area. The action of educators, teachers and counsellors is coordinated to provide the best possible level of support for parents, children and young people, who are also invited to participate in the educational decisions and school life in general. Cultural diversity and multilingualism are treated as positive opportunities and are nurtured. Turkish and Arabic, are for instance, valid languages for the Arbitur, the end of High-school exam required for University. This has enabled many young people from the district to access higher education.
Intercultural mediators have been hired, who could play a bridging role between school and parents. The new system has been approved by 90% of the teachers, and the others had the liberty to go and work in a different school. The Rütli school is today rather trendy among teachers, because many apply to work there. Of course results can be seen only in the long run. In 2014 23 of the pupils passed the Abitur, they started 2007 one year after the start of the new model.
The school is also trying to win back pupils who are allegedly unwilling to learn, offering them certain subjects taught in their mother tongue (either Turkish or Arabic) with mother tongue teachers. This initiative has had a big success among the parents, because for the first time they felt accepted in their cultural identity and national language. In turn this generated a more positive approach towards the German school, with which they can now identify more easily.
This year the school will start the construction of an additional building to offer additional training possibilities in workshops in order to offer an even better pathway for vocational training and jobs.
Obviously, this effort has also had a relevant cost in financial terms, which may hinder its mainstreaming. Most of the costs are borne by the Berlin Senate, an investment of 31,5 M Euros (to be spent by 2016). Apart from that, the Rütli school has been able to attract funds from a few private sponsors, such as the Freudenberg Foundation, which is going to invest 1,2 M Euros over a period of ten years. It is important to underline that Campus Rütli is not an isolated project, but rooted in the neighbourhood’s overall intercultural integration strategy.