Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan answers questions at Ankara’s Esenboğa Airport prior to his departure to Russia, where he will be conducting a two-day visit. AA photo
The government’s moves to close test prep schools is part of a long term transformation plan which does not target anyone specifically, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
has said, in his latest response to the Gülen Movement, which strongly opposes the move.
“They are looking at this [issue] from the perspective of ‘what crime have we committed for being closed?' [No one] is trying to find a crime that has been committed. We are talking about a transformation,” Erdoğan told reporters on Nov. 21 at Ankara’s Esenboğa Airport prior to his departure to Russia, where he will be conducting a two-day visit.
His remarks came as an apparent reaction to daily Zaman’s Nov. 21 headline, “What crime have we committed for being closed?”
The movement, founded by Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Islamic scholar in self-exile in the United States, had previously described the move to reform the dershane system as tantamount to a "military coup."
“Back in the day the media hit us for making arrangements as per [the wishes] of the [Gülen] movement. Now, it is our brothers [of the movement] who are trying to hit the government,” PM Erdoğan said, expressing his discomfort with the Gülen Movement’s media outlets' coverage on the issue.
“[Our efforts] have carried out a transformation regarding public health. We have carried a transformation in city planning. We have made a transformation in the system [regarding the number of ministries] … Should we continue with the same mentality of the 1980s and 1990s?” he said.
He added that policy related to dershanes had been on the agenda since when Hüseyin Çelik, now the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) spokesperson, was appointed head of the Education Ministry in 2003.
“We have announced this as being of our party's program, initiating a shift from an education system based on dershanes to one that is based on schools. This is a transformation and not a closure. It has a history stretching back 10 years. I appeal to all those who are running dershane institutions. This is not aimed at anyone,” Erdoğan said. Disrespect toward teachers
The prime minister also said the current system, in which test prep schools attribute the success of its students who enroll with the country’s best universities to the education provided by their institutions, was "disrespectful" of public school teachers.
“I cannot accept the mentality that says that dershane institutions are behind the students’ success. If we accept this, this would mean closing all schools and continuing with dershane institutions. I consider this as disrespectful toward teachers,” he said.
Erdoğan also claimed that the government had made all the propositions possible to ease the transition from dershane institutions into private schools. “We have presented propositions for a solution. We will undertake the necessary steps after the details [of the draft reform] are complete,” he said. Gülen Movement slams being likened to an opposition party
Meanwhile, Erdoğan’s description of the Gülen Movement as “the opposite side” during his live interview with private broadcaster A Haber on Nov. 20 has drawn a strong reaction among the movements’ members.
“We don’t and we will not see ourselves as an opposite side. We know that our silent brothers’ consciences bleed,” Osman Şimşek, the editor of the herkul.org website, which publishes Fethullah Gülen’s speeches, posted on his Twitter account during Erdoğan’s interview.
Gülen had previously aired his comments on the controversial matter through Şimşek’s Twitter account.
In the same interview, Erdoğan had said he refused to engage in a conflict with "brothers." "I do not know what sort of language they speak, but the language they speak now is not the language of the heart. But we speak the language of the heart and we will continue to do so. We expect the opposite side to speak the language of the heart. I will call them the opposite side, I can’t say anything else now,” Erdoğan had said.