Syrian academics lament language barriers to teaching
ISTANBULLanguage remains the biggest impediment to Syrian academics finding gainful teaching opportunities at Turkish universities, according to participants at a meeting at Boğaziçi University organized by the Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA).
“Four years ago, I moved to Reyhanlı with my family. In Syria, I was working on artificial intelligence and computers at a university. Here, I have been a housewife for four years. I have looked up Turkish universities that have Arabic departments... The language barrier in Turkey makes it hard for us to find jobs,” said a Syrian doctor at the meeting.
Many other Syrian academics also said they are suffering from a language barrier, noting that their English and Turkish were inadequate because most of them were educated in Soviet universities and regional universities.
Syrian academics said that if the Turkish government wants to benefit from their intellectual capital, it must teach them Turkish.
CARA’s Middle East adviser, Kate Robertson, said their aim was to protect academics who were exiled but will play a huge role in Syria’s future.
The meeting was called to discuss ways to maintain Syria’s intellectual capital despite the war.
Boğaziçi University’s academic coordinator responsible for international relations, Professor Taner Bilgiç, said the meeting concentrated on strategies which they could apply to pursue their academic studies and contributions while they are at exile.
“When one looks at the numbers of Syrian academics who are taking refuge in Turkey, there are 285 applications by them on the ‘YÖK online portal application.’ Since 2011, there are 500 to 700 Syrian academics residing in Turkey. Some 328 of them were given work permits. There have been 1,667 applications made since the day the portal was launched, as far as quantity is concerned this number decreased to 1,286. The remaining 285 shows that Turkey has lost the upper class,” said Hacettepe University Migration and Political Research Center and the Higher Education Board’s (YÖK) online portal application director, Professor Murat Erdoğan.
Syrian academics have also complained about a lack of recognition of their skills and qualifications, as well as equivalence issues. They suggested that the number of Arabic language and literature departments should be increased in Turkish universities and that information channels for research opportunities should be strengthened.