‘Elective courses may be ice-breaker for all’

‘Elective courses may be ice-breaker for all’

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
‘Elective courses may be ice-breaker for all’

The Greek school in Istanbul's Balat district. Hürriyet photo

Teaching Armenian and Syriac in Turkish public schools could help make a contribution to Turkey’s peace, members of the minority communities have said in the wake of a decision to introduce elective Kurdish to schools in the next academic year. 

Some community members say Armenian and Syriac elective classes in the state schools could be an icebreaker with the Turkish community, while others say crypto-Armenians - an umbrella term to describe Turkish people of full of partial ethnic Armenian origin who generally conceal their Armenian identity from wider Turkish society - could also learn their culture.

“Even though it is not enough, the step taken by the Turkish government [to offer the Kurdish classes] was remarkable,” said Etyen Mahçupiyan, a columnist for daily Zaman. “Elective mother tongue classes will help provide consensus.”

Zakarya Mildanoğlu, an editor for Armenian-Turkish weekly Agos, said there were already schools providing instruction about the Armenian language, but that elective classes could allow crypto-Armenians to learn their own language, he said. 

Şabo Boyacı, the founder of a Syriac website, said he was forced to send his child to public school due to the absence of a Syriac school. 

“My kids are having difficulties learning their mother tongue and learning their own culture. An elective in our mother tongue has provided a glimmer of hope for us. On the one hand, our children will learn their own language and, on the other, Turkish children will learn the different languages and cultures of Anatolia. This contributes to dialogue and rapprochement,” he said.

But Garo Paylan, an administrator from Yeşilköy Armenian Elementary School, said consensus was impossible “until the way people look at differences in Turkey are changed.”

The Turkish government will introduce Kurdish elective lessons in public schools in the next educational year as part of the ruling party’s effort to find a solution to the Kurdish question. 

“Kurdish will be learned and taught as an elective lesson if there are a sufficient number of students [demanding it]. This is a historic step,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said June 13.