New national curriculum sparks controversy in Turkey

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A draft national curriculum, introduced by Turkey’s Education Ministry, is expected to be implemented by the start of the new school year in 2017.

Turkey
Turkey
Some changes in the new curriculum, however, has sparked debate across the country, as it excludes Evolution Theory from biology courses and reduces information about Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the secularist founder of modern Turkey.

On Jan. 13, the Ministry of Education published the draft education curriculum and opened an online platform to seek public suggestions. The final curriculum will be finished by Feb. 20 with the new textbooks to be used in September.

According to the draft curriculum, a chapter in the senior high-school biology textbook has changed its title from “The beginning of life and evolution” to “Living creatures and the environment.” All references to Darwinian or neo-Darwinian theory are removed.

“The theory of evolution is already a scientifically archaic and decayed theory. There is no rule that this theory should absolutely be taught,” Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Jan. 29.

The new syllabus aims to teach Turkey’s history “from the perspective of a national and moral education and protect national values,” Education Ministry Undersecretary Yusuf Tekin said.

Turkish and Muslim scientists will be introduced in the new textbooks. The failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 will also be added to the social science lessons in the sixth grade.

Local media reported that the dominance of Sunni Islam will be eliminated in compulsory religion classes, to comply with an earlier ruling of the European Court of Human Rights that it was a violation of the freedom of belief.

So far, complaints about the draft curriculum mostly focus on the changes about Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the theory of evolution.

Opponents said the theory of evolution should be taught in high school and the information on Ataturk should be increased. Many people also suggested that religion and morality courses not be compulsory.

Egitim-Sen, a teachers’ union often critical of government policy, says the ministry’s decision to seek suggestions on the draft curriculum is “just symbolic.”

The Union warns that the draft curriculum emphasizes “Turkishness” and Sunni Islam and would encourage a “religious and nationalist” mindset.

The removal of the evolution theory, which is accepted as a scientific reality all over the world, from textbooks is a scandal in itself, it said.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is accused of shaping Turkey’s education system in line with its Islamic ideology.

In 2012, the government increased the periods of religion courses from two hours a week to six. In 2013, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey stopped publishing books about evolution. In a 2013 regulation, the Intelligent Design model, which asserts that certain features of living creatures result from an intelligent cause, is included in the curriculum along with the Evolution Theory.

“This is a curriculum that was prepared by AK Party,” said Mehmet Balik, the president of Egitim-Sen.

“When the Education Ministry says that we will meet with NGO and different sections of society before shaping final curriculum, they are trying to misconduct. It is a deception. The draft already has released signals about religious education,” he said.

“The Turkish curriculum has been changed by governments in the past, but never as extensively as it’s been changed now,” said a Turkish academic on condition of anonymity. “The government is rewriting Turkish history. Poor education always serves elite interests, and the curriculum now openly serves them.” Enditem

Source: Denis Elamu, Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

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