September 8, 2014

Gov't excludes a further 114 schools from incentive package

The Turkish government has removed an additional 114 private schools from the list of schools that are eligible for government incentives, saying that they were mistakenly included in the original list.

The schools that were dropped from the list by the government on the same day that it was originally published are reportedly linked to the Hizmet movement, which is inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

The government's discrimination against private schools affiliated with Hizmet has drawn criticism from some education unions. Active Educators' Union (Aktif Eğitim-Sen) Chairman Osman Bahçe told Today's Zaman that “the Ministry of Education said those 114 schools were put on the list by mistake in a statement. This discriminates against high-achieving private schools which are very popular among parents.”

“The government started this incentive program simply in order to support pro-government private schools and to reduce enrolment at Hizmet-affiliated schools, which have been proven to be successful in competitive university entrance exams as well as at International Science Olympiads,” he added.

Bahçe underlined that the quotas defining the number of students receiving financial aid to attend private schools are still unclear.

“The ministry has all the information about the specifications of 4,361 private schools in Turkey. To make it clear for everybody, they should have come up with reasonable criteria for the selection process. Instead, the government kept the process in the dark so that educators, entrepreneurs and parents have no idea how the incentive program works,” he explained.

The Hizmet-affiliated private Fatih Primary and Secondary Schools in the Bahçelievler neighborhood of İstanbul and the private Yusuf Tanık Primary School in Sincan, Ankara are some of the schools that have been left out of the incentive program.

Şefket Yılmaz, the principal of the private Yusuf Tanık Primary School, stated that they have filed petitions with the district and provincial directorates for national education, but nobody has responded with an explanation for the exclusion.

“We have consulted with our lawyers about this issue and have decided to file a lawsuit against the government,” he added.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Education has announced a second chance for the students and private schools that failed to be declared eligible for the government's educational incentives for private education in a statement on Thursday.

The applications to obtain financial aid from the government can be made between Sept. 8-18. To get the cash credits -- ranging from TL 2,550 to TL 3,550 per student -- students and schools are required to apply via “e-school,” a network that provides information regarding the education of individual students and connects the schools.

Even though the ministry targeted some 250,000 student applications for the financial incentive, the total number of applications remained at 180,637. The ministry announced a second application period due to the fact that the number of applications for incentives had fallen short of expectations.

The ministry later announced that it would provide financial aid to every student who applies for it. However, the exclusion of high-achieving private schools from the list does not give many options for students. In some provinces, Hizmet-affiliated schools are the only network of private schools that are present. That means even if a student qualifies for a cash-credit for private schooling in that province, he or she has no option of enrolling at a private school.

Published on Today's Zaman, 08 September 2014, Monday

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