Representatives from prep school unions have said they don't believe a government pledge to close prep schools or convert them into private schools can be fulfilled, adding that they expect the Constitutional Court will block the closures.
Representatives from the Union of Private Preparatory Schools (ÖZDEBİR), the Güven Preparatory Schools Owners Association (GÜVENDER) and the Turkish Private Schools' Union gathered at İstanbul's Point Hotel Barbaros on Wednesday to discuss the situation of prep schools.
Prep schools, or “dershanes,” are private institutions that help students prepare for standardized high school and college entrance exams.
In a surprise move, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) decided in November of last year to close down prep schools or convert them to private schools, stirring a massive debate. These schools are regarded by many middle or low-income families to have affordable fees and represent an equalizer of educational opportunities.
The AK Party's bill was put to a vote and passed by Parliament on March 7. President Abdullah Gül signed the bill into law on March 12. The law states that prep schools will be allowed to operate until Sept. 1, 2015, and all preparatory courses will be shut down after this date.
In April, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court to annul the controversial law closing Turkey's prep schools.
Speaking at the meeting, ÖZDEBİR President Faruk Köprülü said prep school representatives expect the Constitutional Court to rule against the closure of prep schools. He further predicts that these institutions, which have been serving the country for years, will continue to operate.
According to Köprülü, prep school owners do not believe these schools can be converted into private schools, as promised by the government.
Education Minister Nabi Avcı has said 225 prep schools have applied to become private schools. Köprülü said this figure is low considering the fact that the number of prep schools across the country is approximately 4,000.
He also criticized plans by the Education Ministry to offer additional courses to students at public education centers, as reported recently by media outlets.
“If there is no need for prep schools, why then is the [Education Ministry] trying to get schools and public education centers to offer additional courses to students? If there is a need for additional courses, why are you closing down prep schools? Prep schools are not alternatives to the schools but they support educational activities at schools,” Köprülü said.
GÜVENDER Deputy President Eyyüp Kılcı said the closure of prep schools will lead to financial losses for not just prep schools but all private educational institutions.
In such a case, he said, education fees and the number of students in private schools will fall significantly.
Co-chairperson of the Turkish Private Schools' Union Cem Gülan, for his part, said the conversion of prep schools into private schools will make it more difficult for the current private schools to operate, as most private schools do not have sufficient student enrollment.
He said the regulation for the conversion of prep schools can be compared to the regulations set in place by the military regime of the Sept.12, 1980 coup.
Gülan said the regulation dictates everything -- including how many hours a course will be taught and how it will be taught -- and leaves nothing to the initiative of the private schools. He said the teachers and principals of these schools will also be appointed by the state.
If prep schools are closed
- There will potentially be illegal educational activities, and those offering additional courses to students will be investigated.
- Students will seek additional courses to compensate for shortcomings in lessons.
- Students in vocational schools and imam-hatip schools will have more difficulty in making up for shortcomings in lessons.
- Students, parents, teachers and other prep school employees will experience various problems.
Published on Cihan, 24 July 2014, Thursday