A mosque for every school in Turkey
Photo: David Pipia, JAMnews
The school year has started in Turkey, but this year will be radically different from others: significant changes in the educational curriculum have been made.
Many in Turkey call these changes ‘ideological’.
- Darwin’s theory of evolution had been excluded from school textbooks.
- Sections dealing with Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic, have been shortened.
- A large part of the educational program is now taken up by religious teachings.
The novelties added to school life don’t end there. Starting from the new school year, mosques must be open in all schools and rooms for ablutions made before prayer must also be made available.
The authorities claim that these new introductions to the educational program will serve to foster a more moral, patriotic generation that will be more in touch with its roots. Civic activists and specialists in the sphere of education, however, feel that these changes will lead to the destruction of the secular and scientific education system in Turkey.
‘Jihad’ instead of Darwin and Ataturk
According to investigative journalist Saygi Ozturk, one of the most important changes in the new program is the fact that in the subject ‘culture of religion and morality’, 90 percent of the material concerns religion and only 10 percent morality.
[su_pullquote]”The new school discipline, ‘religion and ethics’, will be 90% focused on religion, as only 10% of the program will be dedicated to ethics.”[/su_pullquote]
The journalist thinks it is inappropriate to make such changes in closed quarters without the opinion and consideration of specialists.
He says that earlier, changes to the educational program by the Ministry of Education had to go through quite an arduous process. Specialists from universities in the relevant departments would work on these changes, in addition to the teachers of these subjects, and specialists from the department of education.
This time, the project was sent as already complete and the department of education was ordered to approve it.
Saygi Ozturk writes that some of the changes will come into force this school year, while the rest will come into force in the year to come. He says that according to information received from the Ministry of Education, the subject ‘jihad’ will already be taught in secular schools starting from next year.
“In the 2018-2019 academic year ‘jihad’ will be a part of school text books as a part of the subject ‘Fundamental religious knowledge’. And in religious high schools, the subject ‘Fikh’ – Islamic jurisprudence,” writes Saygi Ozturk.
Officials explained the idea of creating these two new school subjects in the following way:
“We should cleanse the concept of ‘jihad’ [which has become altered due to its being] used by ISIS and FETÖ. This concept will be included in school textbooks in order to correctly explain its meaning.”
They also intend to shorten the number of units that deal with Ataturk’s legacy and philosophy, and this has brought about special displeasure in society.
Those that have been particularly bothered by this change have began a protest on the site change.org under the name of ‘We don’t want a curriculum without Ataturk’. By 6 September, 11,711 people had already signed the petition.
“Ataturk’s legacy is not only a school subject, it is a symbol of secular Turkey. The new academic plan aims to destroy the secular and scientific education system in the country. By distancing education from modern values, the authorities will destroy the future of our children. This country, the Turkish Republic, was created by Ataturk and will remain that way forever,” the petition says.
Photo: David Pipia, JAMnews
Do children need these hypotheses?
Widespread discussion around this issue began back in the beginning of 2017.
In January, the Minister of Education of Turkey Ismet Yilmaz held a conference on the theme of the ‘updated academic program’ and unveiled the project. While answering a journalist’s question during the meeting regarding why the theory of evolution had been excluded, the minister said:
“What is science? It is either a hypothesis or a theory…and a child’s mind is not ready to accept hypothesis.”
Later, a department head at the Ministry of Education, Alparslan Durmush, answered this question in even more concrete terms:
“While students are still not equipped with a scientific consciousness, controversial topics will be excluded from the school program.”
Durmush also said that the section on ‘The beginning of life and evolution’ will be completely done away with from the biology textbooks for 9th grade, and for the same reason.
The deputy chairman of the Committee on National Education of the Turkish parliament and MP from the Justice and Development Party Burhaneddin Uysal, went even further: he stated that the theory of evolution contradicts Islam and for that reason he believes it ‘impractical’ to teach this theory in schools.
[su_pullquote]“The theory of evolution contradicts Islam and it is impractical to teach it in schools”[/su_pullquote]
“Naturally, we Muslims believe that everything has been created by the all-powerful Allah. Evolution is just a theory. This leads to confusion. We don’t have the time to spend energy on this,” said the MP while participating in a television program.
Photo David Pipia, JAMnews
“The changes destroy the secular and scientific education system”
Specialists in the sphere of education however, are sure that these changes will inflict a heavy blow on the secular and scientific nature of education in the country and intend to contend this decision in court.
The chairman of the teachers’ union, Mehmet Balik, told journalists about his intention to sue the structures that prepared and approved of the project of the new academic program.
According to the chairman of the organization ‘Initiative for reform in education’ Yeliz Dushkun, the theory of evolution is considered controversial in many countries but is still taught.
Dushkun says that if a student has not studied the theory of evolution, he or she cannot understand a lot of topics in biology:
“For example, topics studied in the eight grade such as adaption, mutation, modification – how can you teach them without an initial study of the theory of evolution? Moreover, these topics have remained in the academic program but the theory of evolution has been removed.”
Feray Aytekin Aydogan, the head of the organization ‘Egitim – Sen’ (Education – You) points out that Turkey is the second country after Saudi Arabia to exclude the theory of evolution from the academic program. She says that the government is practically trying to remove modern norms from the education system.
“5-6 years ago in schools, they started opening mosques on a volunteer basis and the Muslim clergy gained the ability to influence education from the very first stages of education. And now the remains of the secular and scientific nature of education are being destroyed as well,” says Aydogan.
We will continue to teach the theory of evolution, she says: “This is our responsibility to our children.”
Photo David Pipia, JAMnews