27 March 2012
The opposition and civic groups have mobilized against the government’s education bill, with teachers’ union Eđitim-Sen deciding to strike for two days in protest of the bill on March 28 and 29, and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) holding its parliamentary group meeting in the form of a rally at Ankara’s Tandođan Square today.
Education Minister Ömer Dinçer has defended the controversial bill, claiming it will increase the average level of education and bring Turkey’s education standards closer to those of OECD countries.
The education bill, which would increase mandatory education from eight to 12 years, divided into three four-year tiers, is expected to be put up for debate in Parliament today. The bill came under fire for permitting the introduction of vocational schooling, including religious education, after four years, as well as a home-study option after eight years. The exclusion of preschool from the 12-year compulsory program has also been widely criticized.
Dinçer said the average education level in Turkey is about six years, and the government’s aim is to increase this level to the OECD average, which is over 12 years. Speaking about the provision that reduces the school-starting age from seven to six, he said the lower age limit for starting school would be 60 months, with an upper limit of 72 months. “Our children will gain one more year in their lives. We will arrange the education system accordingly. The board of education and discipline is working on [the first-grade curriculum],” Dinçer said.
CHP deputy chair Erdođan Toprak said his party would hold their parliamentary group meeting “in protest of the anti-democratic mentality that prevents [the CHP] from speaking in Parliament.”
Toprak was referring to the stormy meeting of Parliament’s Education Commission March 11, in which the AKP rushed the bill through in a session marred by unprecedented brawls. “Our party will hold its parliamentary group meeting shoulder to shoulder with the people. This is a great honor for us.
Meanwhile, this meeting will be a shame for the [ruling Justice and Development Party] AKP, who have forced us to hold our group meeting outside Parliament by violating our right to speak,” Toprak said yesterday in a written statement. Toprak said the banners for the CHP’s March 27 meeting had been removed and torn down by unidentified persons and urged government officials to find those responsible.
CHP group deputy chair Akif Hamzaçebi, for his part, said his party would express its views on the bill at the General Assembly “in a civilized manner.”
The Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), led by Eđitim-Sen, will hold rallies for two days in Ankara while the bill is debated in Parliament. KESK chair Lami Bilgin has said the government has ignored any opposing views prior to the bill’s reaching the General Assembly, and the bill would make the problems in Turkey’s education system more complicated, because it “was prepared with a revanchist mentality.”