'Faith in Islam' to top Turkish school reform
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 11/3/2010 12:00:00 AM | İZGİ GÜNGÖR
Values taught to Turkish students should be based on 'faith in God' and imparted using Islamic terminology, a commission with the National Education Council has said.
Values taught to Turkish students should be based on “faith in God” and imparted using Islamic terminology, a commission with the National Education Council has said, prompting concerns among educators’ unions in the country.
Various commissions within the council have announced reform proposals that would affect the length of compulsory education and whether boys and girls are taught together, among other topics. Though the proposals still require adoption in the council’s general assembly, which was expected to be held late Wednesday or Thursday, and are not binding, many fear they add up to an attempt to impose an Islamic ideology over the country’s educational system.
A plan to change the current system of eight years of uninterrupted primary education back to a two-part system that allowed younger students to attend imam-hatip (religious vocational) schools is among the controversial proposals.
“The eight-year primary education system aimed to close the imam-hatip middle schools. Splitting it up is likely to be a step toward reopening these schools in line with the ideological mindset of the ruling government,” Zübeyde Kılıç, chairman of the Education and Science Personnel Union, or Eğitim-Sen, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
The current system of eight years of compulsory, uninterrupted primary education is a remnant of the Feb. 28, 1997, unarmed military intervention, which led to the closure of imam-hatip schools enrolling students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
If passed in the National Education Council’s general assembly and approved by the Education Ministry, the proposal will essentially bring back the old structure, splitting the eight years of compulsory education into grades one through five and grades six through eight, with students in each group taught in different buildings.
[HH] ‘Council dominated by ruling party’
Ministry officials have defended the move, saying the proposal aims to eliminate problems stemming from having students of widely varying ages sharing the same physical spaces, including toilets, and to keep younger students from picking up dangerous habits from the older ones.
“The move seemingly respects differences in age, but when you begin to split up the education, it is possible to say in the future that only the first five years [of schooling] is obligatory,” Kılıç said. “This is part of the ruling party’s broader plan. You don’t need to split up grades to eliminate problems stemming from age differences. Simply providing different venues could solve the problem.”
Eğitim-Sen left the council in a show of protest of the short time allocated for input from unions, and of developments it believes may legitimize and spread an Islamist ideology in education. Representation on the council was also dominated by participants affiliated with the ruling party, Kılıç said.
“We withdrew because the council didn’t convene in a democratic, participatory and scientific way,” she said. “The council decision is not binding and needs the approval of the Education Ministry. But council decisions are made to be implemented at the end and the ministry may select some of them.”
[HH] ‘Girls, boys should be separated’
The suggestion to create separate schools for girls and boys – an idea proposed by the ruling party-affiliated Education Personnel Labor Union, or Eğitim Bir-Sen – drew criticism as well.
“These types of suggestions, including the split in primary education, are made by those who are close to the ruling government,” said Yüksel Adıbelli, the president of the Education and Science Employee Union, or Eğitim İş. “They aim to create public support [to legitimize the government’s policies] as a way of psychological pressure to achieve superiority.”
According to Adıbelli, the government will use the council’s suggestion of the 5+3 formula for primary school to justify its potential future actions.
“[But] the participants in the council couldn’t express their reservations freely for fear they would be tarnished by the government,” he said.
Ahmet Gündoğdu, head of Eğitim Bir-Sen, told the Daily News that the union had simply suggested that students should have the chance to go to girls-only or boys-only schools if they so chose.
“It is not a new model. Currently the system is mixed; female and male students attend the same schools. But there are also such schools as Istanbul Girls’ High School or Istanbul Boys’ High School,” Gündoğdu said. “We suggested what was used in the past and said that students should be able to go to [single-sex] schools if they want.”
Gündoğdu added that the union believes the length of compulsory education should be increased, but that the split system should be adopted “so that students may attend the schools they wish.”