September 29, 2015

Ministry of Education cancels circular demanding closure of dershanes

The Ministry of Education issued a circular on Sept. 18 canceling a previous circular sent to provincial governors on Aug. 12 that ordered the closure of all university preparation schools, known in Turkish as dershanes, and that said the ministry would take legal action against any schools that fail to close.

The recent circular, which was issued immediately after the Council of State annulled the previous one, emphasizes that all the regulations regarding dershanes outlined in the previous circular had been canceled and that in the case of a contradiction between the two, the update must be regarded as valid.

Mehmet Kasap, a lawyer representing the Pak Education and Science Employees Union (Pak Eğitim-İş), brought the Sept. 18 circular to public attention on his Twitter account on Monday, writing: “The Ministry of Education canceled its instructions for all governor's offices to shut down prep schools that are still operating by issuing a circular on Sept. 18. From now on, governor's offices can't shut down prep schools based on the Ministry of Education's circular dated Aug. 12.”

The Aug. 12 circular came after a regulation about dershanes that said that prep schools can continue to operate as “private educational courses” if they meet the requirements mentioned in the regulation. However, teachers accused the ministry of adopting the regulation simply in order to bypass the Constitutional Court's recent ruling to annul a controversial law seeking to close down dershanes. Critics have claimed that the regulation is a tool to impose a ban on educational institutions that are not pro-government.

The bill ordering the closure of dershanes was proposed by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and passed in Parliament on March 7, 2014, before being signed into law by then-President Abdullah Gül on March 12.

The law was widely seen as an element of the AK Party's witch hunt against the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, a civil society initiative inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen that promotes education and interfaith dialogue. Gülen became the target of the AK Party following corruption investigations that were made public in December 2013, implicating senior members of government. Then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the movement of carrying out a plot to overthrow his government, a claim the movement has repeatedly denied.

Published on Today's Zaman, 29 September 2015, Tuesday