Debate over Atatürk marks curriculum change in Turkey

Debate over Atatürk marks curriculum change in Turkey

Debate over Atatürk marks curriculum change in Turkey Turkey’s new draft national education curriculum aims to “protect national values,” Education Ministry Undersecretary Yusuf Tekin said Jan. 15, amid claims that the curriculum devalues Turkey’s founding fathers. 

“When evaluating the curriculum, it would be misleading to make comments by looking at a single course in a single grade. In our curriculum draft, a concept that will enable our children to protect this country and our values, especially Atatürk, was overseen,” said Tekin.

The comments come in the wake of mounting criticism that the new school plan does not reserve enough lesson coverage for Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and after a comrade-in-arms from Turkey’s War of Liberation, İsmet İnönü, is set to be removed from the portion of the curriculum that discusses World War II, in which İnönü played an important role for Turkey.

According to the draft curriculum, which will be open for discussion and contribution through an online platform until Feb. 10, Atatürk will be covered in the life sciences classes taught to first, second and third grade elementary level students. However, the lesson content is solely based on his birth place, family members, death place and his mausoleum, as well as minor information about his childhood and personality, without touching upon his role in the World War I, the Turkish War of Independence, and his republican-era revolutions.

As criticism poured in, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Ankara deputy Ayşe Gülsün Bilgehan on Jan. 16 held a press conference and said they had observed that the prepared curriculum “diminishes and underrates” Atatürk and the founders of the republic.

Bilgehan said some parts of history are “apparently erased.” 

“But it is impossible to remove love for Atatürk from the hearts of this nation,” she added.  

According to the plan, the online platform will be open until Feb. 10 and will enable people to contribute and share their opinions for all classes, apart from classes on “religion and morality.” After evaluating comments from students, teachers, parents and education experts, an Education Ministry commission will re-evaluate its draft and finalize its work by Feb. 20. The process will then be followed by the writing of new textbooks.  

Included in the draft curriculum are topics such as “Historical Conscience,” “Healthy Living and Aging,” the “July 15 [failed coup attempt] Democracy Victory,” “21st-Century Skills,” “Kemalism,” “Education of Values,” the “National Education Quality Certificate,” the “Turkey Competencies Framework” and “Living Skills.”

The Education Ministry says the new program covers subjects like Turkey’s “historic, cultural, social and moral past from the perspective of a national and moral education.”