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ANKARA: Minority Schools In Turkey Lack Students, Report Says

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  • ANKARA: Minority Schools In Turkey Lack Students, Report Says


    Today's Zaman, Turkey
    Sept 19 2013

    19 September 2013 /─░PEK UZUM, ─░STANBUL
    A lack of students in Turkey's minority schools is leading them to
    close down, according to a Thursday report by the History Foundation.

    The report, released at a foundation press conference, says that the
    steady decline in Turkey's minority populations, a rising preference
    among minority students to study at non-minority schools and enrollment
    limitations applied by the state have drawn student populations
    at minority schools down so far that many have had to close. The
    surviving Armenian and Jewish schools seem to have reached stable
    enrolment levels, but low enrolment remains the single biggest problem
    facing Greek schools in Turkey. In the 2012-13 academic year, 3,137
    students attended Armenian schools, including 67 Armenian citizens;
    230 students attended Greek schools (including students of Greek
    nationality) and 688 students attended Jewish schools.

    "The number of students attending these schools may be increased
    and the schools may be saved from closure if students who are not
    Turkish citizens or who do not belong to the same minority [group]
    are allowed to enroll," the report says.

    One of the biggest problems the report mentioned is the ambiguous
    status of Turkey's minority schools, which are officially considered
    neither private schools nor foreign schools. However, minority schools
    are still associated by the public with private and foreign schools,
    and are subjected to the legislation regulating private schools --
    including a rule that prevents them from accepting students above
    a quota allocated by the ministry of education, which causes major
    financial problems and often makes it difficult for minority schools
    to survive on their budgets.

    The report goes on to suggest the drafting of separate laws and
    regulations specific to minority schools. "A framework regulation can
    be developed to cover all minority schools, taking into account the
    differing characteristics of each community's schools, or separate
    regulations can be prepared for the schools of each community.

    "It is suggested that legislation be developed through dialogue to
    bring a permanent solution to their [minority schools'] problems
    while taking into consideration the texts drafted by the minority
    schools concerning possible legislation," the report says.

    Another problem the report mentions is the reciprocity principle
    and minority schools. Though minority schools are affiliated with
    foundations managed by Turkish citizens and attended by Turkish
    citizens, the principle of reciprocity is imposed on the development of
    legislation governing these schools and in defining their rights and
    obligations. For example, if a Greek school in Turkey wants to hire a
    teacher who is a Greek national, the Turkish government will require
    Greece to hire a Turkish teacher to teach at a school in Greece.

    According to the report, this reciprocity principle equates minorities
    with foreigners, offending them and forcing them to deal with a large
    number of bureaucratic and political problems. The report suggests
    dropping the principle of reciprocity when preparing legislation
    governing minority schools.

    Yet another challenge minority schools face is a lack of trained
    teachers as Turkish universities do not offer specialized education
    in this field. The History Foundation suggests the establishment
    of special departments for each minority group's schools in Turkish

    No public authority or private institution is responsible for preparing
    the textbooks and education materials needed by the minority schools of
    the Armenian, Greek and Jewish communities, the report says. "Schools
    should also be provided with support for the translation and printing
    of textbooks. It is suggested that a special unit with a suitable
    budget and employing an adequate number of qualified employees be
    set up to develop textbooks and educational materials for minority
    schools in Turkey. This unit should be financed by the state."