11/04/2010, 00.00
TURKEY
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Commission for education proposes mandatory Islamic values in Turkish schools

The unions are opposed to the proposal that will be debated by the National Board of Education, the majority of which is linked to the government, because it will lead to the legitimization and spread of Islamic education in the early grades.

Ankara (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The values taught in Turkish schools should be based on "faith in God" and delivered using the terminology of Islam, said a committee of the Board of Education, creating concern among educators in the country. Several committees within the Council have announced proposals for reform that would affect the length of compulsory education, and the fact that classes are or are not mixed. Although the proposals must then be adopted by the General Council, many fear the tendency to impose an Islamic ideology on the national education system.

Among the various proposals under discussion is one to change the current system (eight years of uninterrupted primary education) into one divided into two parts, to allow younger students to attend religious vocational school (iman-hatin).

The current system of eight years of uninterrupted compulsory education is a consequence of the unarmed military intervention, 28 February 1997, which led to the closure of schools for religious vocations. If this proposal passes the General Assembly of the Council for national education and is approved by the Ministry of Education it will return the situation to its former structure, breaking it in two the periods of compulsory education. Ministry officials have defended the proposal, saying it could solve the problem of having of a very different age students in  the same class. But critics argue that by breaking it in two the period of compulsory education, it will be possible to argue in future that in reality only the first five years will be obligatory".

The representatives of the teachers union have left the Council in protest because the time given to trade unions to submit their views was too short, and because they claim that the reforms will lead to a greater spread of the ideology and legitimisation of Islamic education. The unions also complain that the Council is dominated by representatives of the ruling party. "We left because the Council did not meet in a democratic, participatory and democratic manner," said one trade unionist. On the division between male and female he added: "The suggestion to create schools and classes divided according to sex are made by people close to the ruling party."

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