Gender-segregated education in Istanbul school sparks debate

Gender-segregated education in Istanbul school sparks debate

Gender-segregated education in Istanbul school sparks debate

DHA Photo

Administrators at the Akşemsettin Anadolu İmam Hatip High School, a religious vocational high school in central Istanbul, have begun segregating genders, with an Education Ministry official saying the implementation was necessary “due to physical needs.”

“Due to a high number of students, some 75 percent of schools in the Esenler [district] offer education in two shifts,” said Muammer Yıldız, the head of the Education Directorate in Istanbul, on Oct. 28, indicating that the school in question was segregating these shifts on gender lines.

However, the move has sparked a fresh debate on single-sex education, with the “secular” character of schools across the country being placed under the spotlight.

The Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) filed a criminal complaint to the Council of State earlier this month to annul the government’s decision to allow girls attending fifth-grade and upper school classes to wear headscarves.

A government decree changing the regulation on the dress code in public schools was published Sept. 27 in the Official Gazette, allowing girls as young as 10 to attend classes wearing headscarves.

The TBB argued that the right to an education could conflict with the principle of secularism and called for the annulment of the amendment in the regulation. It stressed that the amendment contradicts Turkey’s civil code, recalling that the age of adulthood was set at 18.

On Oct. 1, another teachers’ union, the Union for Education and Science Workers (Eğitim-İş) also filed a criminal complaint against the amendment and demanded its annulment.

Following the government’s move, Eğitim-Bir-Sen, an education sector trade union with conservative views, demanded the total abolition of mixed-sex education, while also calling for freedom in the dress code as part of a reaction against the compulsory wearing of ties for men.

Until now, only female students enrolled in vocational Islamic schools were permitted to wear headscarves to class.

Parents of pupils at the Akşemsettin school approved the single-sex education decision, Yıldız said, adding that the school would be moved to a new larger location or an additional facility would be constructed to meet the high demand.

The provincial head of the schools in Istanbul said the school would return to co-ed education once conditions improve.

However, Gürsel Tekin, the secretary general of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), strongly disagreed.

“This cannot be explained in words other than bigotry and reactionaryism,” Tekin said in a statement.