Ruling AKP lawmakers voice objection to prep schools closure

Ruling AKP lawmakers voice objection to prep schools closure

Ruling AKP lawmakers voice objection to prep schools closure

Under fire Education Minister Nabi Avcı speaks at a press conference. AA photo

Although Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has already voiced his resolve to close private examination prep schools, known as “dershanes,” some lawmakers from his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have raised their objections toward the move.

Education Minister Nabi Avcı gave details of the government’s plans to close down the prep schools to AKP lawmakers on Nov. 26 in a closed-door parliamentary group meeting, in an attempt to allay possible concerns. The AKP will hold a second meeting to further inform lawmakers on the issue soon.

However, many deputies remain unconvinced. “Minister, your explanations did not satisfy me. Closing down prep schools is against free competition. The model you recommend will not solve the problem. We have to increase the quality of education first. Transforming the prep schools into private schools without reforming the education system is problematic. This regulation should be postponed until after local elections [March 2014],” AKP Karaman deputy Mevlüt Akgün was quoted by sources as saying during the closed-door meeting.

Akgün had previously declared that he would object a prospective bill that paved the way for the closure of prep schools.

Along with Akgün, eight other AKP lawmakers have publicized their stance against the plans for the prep schools, including Kütahya deputy İdris Bal, Bursa deputy Hüseyin Şahin, Burdur deputy Hami Yıldırım, Manisa deputy Muzaffer Yurttaş, Istanbul deputy Hakan Şükür, Muş deputy Muzaffer Çakar, İzmir deputy İlhan İşbilen and Kayseri deputy Ahmet Öksüzkaya.

Some of them are known to be close to the Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen’s movement, which is at odds with the government over their plans for the schools.

In his explanations in the Nov. 26 meeting, Education Minister Avcı repeated remarks he made publicly relating to the issue, saying that prep schools would either be transformed into private schools, open-education high schools, free public education centers, or free study centers.

Former Interior Minister and Istanbul deputy Abdülkadir Aksu reportedly suggested that the education system should be reviewed and the issue should be discussed in a holistic manner. Another Istanbul Deputy, Mehmet Domaç, supported the closure of the prep schools, stressing that they should not allow the issue to become a wider internal rift within the party, AKP sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Former Culture Minister and İzmir deputy Ertuğrul Günay, who has been at odds with official government positions on a number of occasions, supported the idea of such issues going public after adequate internal debate.

A number of other deputies recommended long-term and detailed discussion of the issue, calling for a postponement until after local elections. Avcı reportedly noted all questions of lawmakers and said that they could discuss the issue at a second meeting soon. However, an exact date has not been set for this second meeting.

Uneasiness with Şükür

AKP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Mahir Ünal, speaking with journalists on Nov. 26, did not hide his party’s uneasiness over the public objections expressed by AKP deputy Şükür over the issue. Şükür, an ex-soccer player known to be close to the Gülen movement, voiced his objection to the move through messages posted on his Twitter account.

“Of course, Hakan Şükür has stated his views about private prep schools. Stating one’s views is one thing, and making statements against the party policies which are formed through the joint decision of the party and making a habit of it is something else. These should be separated from each other,” Ünal added.