12 July 2012Mehmet Deniz hopes he will one day be able to use his mother tongue to teach his Kurdish origin students. The 27-year-old social studies teacher at the Sanliurfa Study Centre said many of his elementary school-aged Kurdish students have troubles learning.
"Many students who come to school for the first time are having a very hard time understanding what is being discussed and what is being asked from them. They feel very uncomfortable and even ashamed, because their classmates make fun of them. This tendency usually ends with them leaving school, or hating education in their childhood years," he told SES Türkiye.
"Our government and the education leaders should finally understand that one's own language enables children to express themselves easily, as there is no fear of making mistakes," he said.
Deniz's desire might soon come true as the government is preparing a new cadre of teachers to teach Kurdish as a two-hour elective course starting in fifth grade.
The Education Ministry has assigned the task of training teachers to state-run Mardin Artuklu University and Bingol University, which announced the opening of programmes last week to train 700 Kurdish teachers.
"There is a great interest in the programme and we believe that this process will eventually develop into mother tongue education," Professor Kadri Yildirim, Artuklu University deputy rector and the head of the Living Language Institute that operates a Kurdish-language institute, told SES Türkiye.
The university is planning to select 500 students among those who apply by July 27th. The students will take part in the programme this fall and will be appointed as Kurdish language teachers -- in both Zaza and Kurmanji dialects -- next summer after their graduation.
Teachers will not only learn to teach Kurdish, but will also improve their teaching skills and prepare to teach fifth- and sixth-grade elementary school students.
"This is a simple pilot project," Yildirim explained, noting that it would develop the infrastructure for even more mother tongue education and teaching.
But some education experts, such as Professor Ilhan Kaya, head of the Diyarbakir-based Dicle University Social Research Centre, are wary of the new programme that "doesn't really look like it is well-prepared for."
Calling the initiative a positive step, Kaya told SES Türkiye that Turkey's education system is not adequately prepared to teach Kurdish language academically to the undergraduate teachers. "There are not enough specialists, infrastructure for books and curriculum, and the number of teachers for it," he said.
Yildirim agreed that currently the university doesn't have the infrastructure to accommodate the decision for Kurdish mother tongue education. "But this is a process. We are in a transition period to the next steps," he said.
The programme will accept applicants who have graduated from Turkish language and literature teaching, social sciences and modern Turkish dialects from science and literature faculties. The candidates will need to score at least 55 points on the ALES, the postgraduate programme examination.