August 15, 2014

Prep schools to continue their educational programs

Representatives of the Union of Private Preparatory Schools (ÖZDEBİR), Güven Preparatory Schools Owners Association (GÜVENDER), the All Private Schools Association (TÖDER) and the Private Education Association (ÖZDER) have issued a joint statement saying that their prep schools (dershanes), which have played an important role in the Turkish education system for the past 30 years, will start their educational programs as usual on Aug 26, despite a new law that orders the closure of the prep schools by September 2015 and the fining of any that continue to operate.

After a controversial bill seeking to shut down the prep schools was passed by Parliament on March 1 after much political wrangling and even scuffles between ruling party deputies and lawmakers from opposition parties, debates erupted whether there will be decline in the number of students who attend the prep schools. However, according to the statement, applications to preparatory schools have boomed, especially in the southern provinces of Turkey.

There are 3,858 prep schools in Turkey, attended by over 2.2 million students. Out of the 739,000 high school seniors who must take the university entrance exam to continue their education, 550,000 attend prep schools. Most Turkish schools have 40 hours of classes a week and prep schools offer 15-20 hours of extra weekly lessons. In Turkey, most middle and high school students attend prep schools to prepare for exams that will decide which high schools and universities they will be eligible to attend.

The law intended to shut down Turkey's prep schools -- or “transform” them, as the government argues -- violates the Turkish Constitution and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), according to experts. However, the government pushed through the law in order to introduce broad changes to deal with systemic woes in the education system.

Published on Today's Zaman, 14 August 2014, Thursday