September 19, 2015

Turkey’s top administrative court annuls controversial prep school circular

The Council of State on Friday annulled a recent circular sent to every governor's office by the Ministry of Education demanding that all operating university preparation schools known as “dershanes” be closed and announcing that the ministry will take legal action against those currently in operation.

Educators and various education unions applied to the Council of State on Aug. 13 to annul a new regulation on the operation of dershanes -- university preparation schools -- adopted by the Ministry of Education that educators say aims to bypass the Constitutional Court's ruling to annul a law seeking to close down or transform prep schools.

The circular, which demands the closure of the dershanes “which continue to operate unlawfully, without undergoing a necessary transformation [to become licensed as private educational courses]” drew wide criticism for being unconstitutional.

Soon after the Constitutional Court announced its decision to annul the controversial law on July 13, the ministry adopted a new regulation in an attempt to bypass the top court's ruling. On Aug. 7, Education Minister Nabi Avcı explained that current prep schools can continue to operate as private educational courses if they meet the requirements stipulated by the regulation and that those schools must obtain a new license from the ministry in order to operate.

Many critics have regarded the regulation as a means to impose a ban on educational institutions that are not pro-government.

A bill ordering the closure of dershanes proposed by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) was passed in Parliament on March 7, 2014, and 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, 18 September 2015, Friday