The federal education ministry of Social Democrat (SPÖ) Claudia Schmied announced today (Tues) the language may become the 14th foreign language learners in the country can pick at their final exams. Turkish has been taught as an optional subject in many secondary modern schools which have focused on languages for some time, but can currently not be chosen as a final exam subject.
The education ministry’s announcement comes on the back of news that Graz University plans to introduce Turkish as a subject for teachers-to-be. Other universities are expected to follow the example, while the ministry stressed it saw no deadline or timeframe for improving the status of Turkish among school subjects by allowing students to opt for it at the so-called Matura exams.
The Greens called the developments "reasonable and overdue", while the Freedom Party (FPÖ) warned that such a reform would "create parallel societies" among people living in Austria. The right-wing party – which looks back on a series of strong election performances – has been campaigning against "immigrants who are unwilling to integrate" for years.
FPÖ boss Heinz-Christian Strache recently made headlines by travelling to Israel. Political analysts see tendencies of the FPÖ and other right-wing parties across Europe to win the support of members of Jewish communities – and attack allegedly radical Muslims at the same time.
The Austrian Greens claimed raising the importance of Turkish in Austrian schools by making the language a possible Matura exam subject would give young immigrants the chance to act as "bridge-builders" between Austria and Turkey. The opposition party argued it was about time that Turkish follows the native languages of other main groups of immigrants like Serbian and Bosnian. According to education experts English, French and Spanish are nevertheless expected to remain the most popular foreign languages for final exams.
The issue is set to become another aspect in an ongoing argument among political leaders in Austria about whom to blame for the rise of the FPÖ after its near demise in 2005. The two government coalition parties – the SPÖ and the People’s Party – have been criticised by its supporters for failing to make their points of view on immigration issues clear while the FPÖ succeeded in linking foreigners with soaring crime figures.
Around 10 per cent of the Austrian populace are foreigners. Germans are the largest group with around 213,000 members ahead of people from Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro (207,000) and Turks (183,000).
Especially Vienna has developed into a melting pot of ethnic groups, according to some commentators and sociologists. Around 44 per cent of all people living in the capital have a migration background, meaning that they were born abroad or in Austria but to migrating families. While the Viennese FPÖ’s controversial policies helped the party to increase its share in the city election last October by nearly 11 per cent to 26 per cent, Vienna’s SPÖ-Greens coalition has launched various initiatives to improve the understanding between Austrians and members of different ethnic minorities.