Main opposition party strives to block debated education bill

Main opposition party strives to block debated education bill

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Main opposition party strives to block debated education bill

Education minister Ömer Dinçer (L) and other deputies from the opposition met yesterday at Parliament’s Education Commission to discuss the controversial bill. AA photo

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) urged yesterday for the withdrawal of the controversial education bill and vowed to do its best to block it, as dozens of lawmakers lined up to speak against the draft at Parliament’s Education Commission.

The CHP decided at a closed parliamentary group meeting that a crowded group of its members would attend the commission meeting yesterday. About 50 lawmakers from the CHP and other opposition parties requested to speak in a move aimed at protracting the proceedings.

“The proposal should be withdrawn and debated in detail, and then brought back to Parliament. Otherwise, I will speak for 12 hours at this meeting,” CHP deputy Engin Özkoç said. He was still speaking when the Hürriyet Daily News went to print yesterday.

Vocational schools

The reform plan, drafted by senior deputies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), increased mandatory education from eight to 12 years with three tiers of four years each. It has come under fire by both opposition parties and leading non-governmental organizations.

Under the draft, students would start attending vocational schools after a four-year basic education, but they will be able to change their choices afterward. Critics say the government’s main objective is to reintroduce the imam-hatip vocational religious schools after primary education. They point out that students in Western countries are asked to choose vocational programs no earlier than the age of 16. The draft is also under fire because of plans to give students the opportunity to opt out of school after eight years in favor of distance learning, a provision that many believe would undermine the schooling of girls.

The sub-panel of Parliament’s Education Commission discussed proposals of civic groups and trade unions on the much-criticized education reform bill last week. CHP deputy Nur Serter, a sub-panel member, said yesterday she felt “deceived” during the meetings.

“I saw that the issues on which we reached an agreement were changed with proposals [by AKP deputies]. About 30 NGOs submitted proposals, and except four or five, they all backed the [current] eight-year uninterrupted primary education. But the commission did not take these views into consideration. I’m sure we will witness similar practices again in this commission,” she said.

Stressing that there should be a pedagogical approach to education instead of ideological, Serter proposed the commission should lend an ear to deans of education faculties.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy Özcan Yeniçeri, for his part, criticized a provision that would reduce the school starting age from seven to six, recalling that such an arrangement was abandoned in the past.

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