For days we have been discussing the new education reform bill known as 4+4+4.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Sakarya deputy Engin Özkoç spoke for exactly 12 hours at the Parliamentary Education Committee of which he is a member, when his demand that the voices of the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) should be paid more attention to was rejected.
When he read each of the 20-page reports prepared by 20 NGOs on the educational bill, the meeting of the commission was extended until the early hours of the morning.
According to Batuhan Aydagül, who coordinates the Education Reform Initiative (ERG) - which has been conducting serious work on education for 10 years under the umbrella of Sabancı University - the educational reform is even more important than the constitutional reform.
Why does Aydagül, who has appeared on a different television channel almost every evening since the 4+4+4 formula was announced, constantly focus on the questions that have preoccupied all of our minds?
He asks: “Why has the Education Ministry, which has recorded significant achievements in education in recent years, not consulted the NGOs at all for the new education bill? Why is this bill so rushed?”
Numerous NGOs, as well as the ERG, are opposed to the new bill. Among the forerunners are women’s rights NGOs who are concerned that girls will be “locked at home” after the first four years, and AÇEV, which focuses on pre-school education.
The Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD), which brings together businesspeople, is another critic of the proposals. However, when the head of TÜSİAD Ümit Boyner criticized the bill on the grounds that “it might create problems in the participation of girls in education,” she was met with a severe reaction from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
When he opposed Boyner by saying: “TÜSİAD’s reaction is outdated and far from Turkey’s realities. Sorry TÜSİAD, what you wish will not happen,” a new polemic started.
You may remember that there was another polemic experienced before between TÜSİAD and the government, on the topic of the referendum. At that time, the prime minister said: “If you stay neutral, you will be eliminated.”
In other words, this is not the first time that TÜSİAD and the government have had strained relations.
Unfortunately, this time it seems as if government criticism toward TÜSİAD has exceeded its dose.
After Erdoğan responded with the claim that “The Justice and Development (AK Parti) is not the government of elites and bosses,” the deputy head of the AK Parti, Adana deputy Ömer Çelik’s words that “Today, those who have money in their pockets are pressuring the government,” were not easy to swallow.
It is impossible to understand this: Why does the government, which is expecting contributions from all nongovernmental organizations on the new constitution debate, not consult NGOs on the most crucial topic in Turkey, education? And why does it react like this when an establishment such as TÜSİAD expresses an opinion? What can be more natural than TÜSİAD offering its opinion on the educational bill?
TÜSİAD’s contributions to the Turkish economy stand at 65 percent of industrial production, 80 percent of foreign trade volume, 85 percent of corporate tax, and also has a 50 percent contribution to registered employment.
Indeed TÜSİAD is interested in having generations with a qualified educational background. Besides, its concern that “the 4+4+4 tiered system could create problems in the education of girls” is far from unjustified.
According to Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) data, three quarters of women over 15 years of age in Turkey - that is, 20 million women - are at home. In Turkey where a total of 24 million people are employed, 20 million women are at home.
Some interesting research has been issued by the East Anatolia Development Agency, at a time when debates on the 4+4+4 formula bill are ongoing. It states that the schooling ratio for girls in secondary education in east and southeast Anatolia is only 36 percent.
Now, is Ümit Boyner not right?