Education minister says Islamic scholar Gülen’s criticism of test prep school row ‘unfair’

Education minister says Islamic scholar Gülen’s criticism of test prep school row ‘unfair’

ANKARA – Hürriyet
Education minister says Islamic scholar Gülen’s criticism of test prep school row ‘unfair’

Turkish Education Minister Nabi Avcı said he was surprised by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen's stance vis-à-vis the test prep school reform. AA photo

Turkish Education Minister Nabi Avcı has described the criticism over reports that the government was moving to regulate the status of private prep schools for university entrance exams as “unjust,” questioning the intention of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen’s harsh stance toward the proposal.

“I don’t understand why the Gülen movement has reacted so strongly through its various channels. We have explained [the reform] several times. If the prep schools are turned into private preparatory high schools, there won’t be any loss,” Avcı was quoted by Hürriyet as saying Nov. 16.

“When we see these harsh and unfair criticisms, we can’t help thinking whether this is just about shutting down the prep schools [or] whether there is anything else behind it,” Avcı added. 

Daily Zaman reported that a new draft would entail the closure of all kinds of preparation schools, known as dersanes, at the beginning of the next school and academic year.

Reacting to the matter, Gülen compared the government’s draft bill regarding the schools to military coups in a speech released on his official website.

“They might even want to close the doors of heaven to us and say that ‘we will enter heaven before you enter.’ We have been seeing these [situations] since the 1960 coup. We saw the 1971 coup and we got its kick. We saw the 1980 coup and we got its horse kick. We got something from all of them,” Gülen said.

Zaman also made a similar comparison in the headline of its Nov. 15 printed edition.  The daily claimed that the draft was completed with the headline, “Huge blow [using a word which also means military coup] to education,” but the Education Ministry firmly denied the reports and said the items had been “fabricated.”

“The language used in this process in criticism toward our government has saddened and hurt us. Likening a legal draft that we believe will bring benefits to society with an undemocratic regime is wrong,” Avcı told Hürriyet, adding that a middle-ground solution could be found in the debate. 

“To be honest, I have been surprised by this harsh language. We can sit and find the middle ground. The discussion about whether the prep schools are being closed or not is wrong,” Avcı said, assuring that after the bill, all test prep institutions and its employees will continue to function as before. 

“I believe that this problem can be solved with mutual understanding. However, we should all avoid prejudiced, unfair and harsh language,” he said. 

The test prep schools are an important part of Turkey’s education system, as they provide instruction on how to prepare for highly competitive university entrance exams.