News Item, , Gütersloh: Bertelsmann Stiftung: CEO Gunter Thielen assesses first 100 days

2008 Carl Bertelsmann Prize focuses on "Integration through education"

“The Bertelsmann Stiftung wants to help shape globalization’s impact on Germany,” the foundation’s new CEO, Gunter Thielen, said today, assessing his first 100 days in office. “We are all living in a world that is rapidly changing, and we want to be a foundation that gets involved in change processes.”  

In his first 100 days as chairman and CEO of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, Thielen has initiated a number of measures to achieve this goal. “We’ve realigned the foundation’s organizational structures to reflect the new challenges,” he said, “and we have consolidated our projects and resources.” In addition, other steps have been taken to give the foundation a more international focus, such as the opening of an office in Washington, DC at the beginning of the year. The primary goal of the new office is to increase cooperation with US-based foundations and think tanks and to promote mutual understanding by bringing together key institutions and decision makers.

At the same time, the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board has identified a new focus for the foundation. “Our work is designed to impact individuals,” Thielen said. “Whatever the Bertelsmann Stiftung does, it must make a difference in people’s lives.” The foundation’s new organizational slogan is meant to make this focus clear: “Inspiring people. Shaping the future.” 

This year’s Carl Bertelsmann Prize will also reflect the new organizational strategy by looking at educational opportunity as a means of highlighting the issues of civic participation and the need to integrate all members of society regardless of background. The German school system places children and young people from immigrant families at a considerable disadvantage, even though each youngster has a significant contribution to make and deserves the chance to do so. In light of that, the 2008 Carl Bertelsmann Prize -- the 20th year it is being awarded -- is dedicated to the topic “Integration through education -- Fairness for all.”

International studies have shown that in Germany, as in almost no other country, a child’s social background largely determines his or her educational success. This especially applies to the children of immigrants: given the same level of intelligence, they generally leave school less qualified than their German counterparts and are only 50 percent as likely to find a vocational training position. Not only are these young people put at a disadvantage and deprived of the chance to make the most of themselves, Germany also fails to benefit from their talents.

Through the 2008 Carl Bertelsmann Prize, the Bertelsmann Stiftung wants to highlight exemplary programs designed to promote children with an immigrant background. As part of the international search carried out during the selection process, educational and integration policies from 10 countries will be examined, with a particular focus on the integration of second-generation immigrants.

The search will examine programs in a number of countries that have traditionally been magnets for immigrants (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) as well as European nations that were once colonial powers ( France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom) and those that have been home to guest workers (Sweden, Norway and Switzerland). All of the countries have placed better in the PISA educational rankings than Germany when it comes to integrating second-generation immigrants. Findings from the international search will be presented at the award ceremony on September 4, 2008.

In 2007, the Bertelsmann Stiftung invested €63 million in its projects and reform initiatives, made possible by the efforts of its 330 employees. In 2008 it has budgeted €72 million for its project work. Since its inception, the Bertelsmann Stiftung has dedicated some €728 million to nonprofit causes.