Government’s proposal on test prep centers causes row

Government’s proposal on test prep centers causes row

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Government’s proposal on test prep centers causes row

A group of dershane owners complained about the government’s work, saying they were being defamed and excluded from the process of deciding their future. Cihan photo

The Turkish government’s preparations for a draft to regulate the status of private institutions that prepare students for university entrance exams have changed the country’s political agenda.

Although governing officials said decisions had not been reached on the regulations, daily Zaman reported Nov. 14 that the government had finished work on a draft version of the law that foresees the closure of all kinds of preparation schools, known as dershanes, beginning with the 2013-2014 school year and imposing severe fines on those that continue to operate.

In a speech released on the website on Nov. 15, Islamic scholar Fetullah Gülen called on his supporters to pray in “these difficult times” and urged patience among his followers, over the media reports that the dershanes would be closed down. 

“A believer could be shaken, but he won’t be toppled. This is how we should interpret this situation. One should be patient over tribulations,” he said.

“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 1970 coup and we got its kick. We saw the 1980 coup and we got its horse kick. We got something from all of them,” said Gülen, when he was reminded of the recent reports about dershanes. 

Gülen’s reaction to the reports is notable when taking into account that hundreds of dershanes across Turkey are known for their links with the Gülen movement.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said Nov. 15 that the government’s work on the draft was still continuing and would be shared with the public as soon as the draft was completed. 

Bozdağ’s remarks came a day after Zaman claimed that the draft was completed with the headline, “Huge blow [using a word which also means military coup] to education.” The Education Ministry firmly denied the reports of closure late Nov. 14, saying Zaman’s report had fabricated “items.”

Bozdağ also said Nov. 15 that the work was about turning dershanes into private schools, implying that their closure was not the main target. 

“We want to open the way for the transformation of the dershanes. [We want] dershanes to transform into private schools,” said Bozdağ.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has refrained from commenting on government plans to close down dershanes or private tutoring schools and said “studies are ongoing over this issue.”

President Abdullah Gül said Nov. 15 that all educators would discuss the issue widely, adding that the works were not yet complete. 

“It is not nice to have an education [institution] parallel to the schools. But first the reasons [that caused dershanes to open] must be removed. This is an issue of demand and supply,” Gül told reporters during a visit to the eastern province of Erzincan on Nov. 15. 

“There will be objections and progress will be reached by listening to [these objections]. There is no certainty and the work still continues as far as I know,” Gül said.

Meanwhile, a group of dershane owners complained about the government’s work, saying they were being defamed and excluded from the process of deciding their future.

Dershane associations, including the Güven Dershane Owners’ Association and All-Private Education Institutions’ Association, and some other dershane owners said in a statement Nov. 15 that the recent move contradicted the spirit of the reform packages introduced by the government and complained that the government had not meet with representatives of the sector during its work. 

Meanwhile, Gülen also said in his speech that some circles were trying to make people believe that the Gülen movement was behind the imprisonment of several people, including many soldiers, in recent coup plot cases.

“Those who did the kicking [against us] are now being brought to account. We did not do this [bringing them to account]. Divine destiny passed that judgment and the people divine destiny used did this to them,” Gülen said, referring to recent judicial cases launched against the perpetrators of Turkey’s past coups.

“However, some are whispering to those people [coup makers] things like the [Gülen] community is making its members [put them on trial]. They are engaged in an act of discord that aims to kill two birds [coup plotters and the Gülen movement] with one stone. These comments do not befit my style, but I have to say this much if you let me,” Gülen said.

But he also said he would have released all “the elderly men” now in jail after being convicted in the coup plot cases.