November 7, 2015

Oppression of dershanes continues despite top court’s ruling

Although the Constitutional Court and the Council of State had recently given orders to cancel a Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government bill that aimed to close down prep schools, some governors and mayors are still trying to force dershanes -- prep schools -- to be shut down.

On Oct. 25, a FEM dershane in Hakkari received a notification from the Hakkari Governor's Office demanding that it cease operations immediately.

Another written notice was sent to the Anafen dershane in Bursa's İznik district by the İznik Municipality on Oct. 29, the day marking the foundation of the Turkish Republic, ordering the school to close for good.

The news baffled the students, parents and managers of both prep schools because of the top court's earlier decision to annul the AK Party government's dershane bill.

Speaking to Sunday's Zaman, Union of Active Educators (Aktif Eğitim-Sen) Chairman Osman Bahçe said that existence of prep schools are denied in the Education Ministry's regulation that was announced by Education Minister Nabi Avcı soon after the top court's dershane ruling, allegedly to bypass it, as educators claimed.

“The government has to prepare a new regulation that acknowledges the existence of prep schools, but it hasn't done that until now. Legally, prep schools seem like they don't correspond to any institution. But the reality is, everybody across the world knows the government is trying to shut down prep schools out of spite. There is a legal vagueness surrounding the prep schools. But this vagueness is not one that requires prep schools to be closed. On the contrary, the situation requires the [AK Party] government to give prep schools the right to exist,” Bahçe stated.

Referring to the attempts to close down the schools, Bahçe said: “Government bodies that send notices to prep schools demanding them to be shut down are interpreting the top court's decision as they want to, not as they have to. If the government is going to close down prep schools whether or not the top court rules against or in favor of it, then what is the function of the top court? No government official has the right to wrong the people who work or receive education in prep schools [by trying to close prep schools].”

Pak Eğitim-İş (Pak Education and Science Employees Union) Chairman Abdullah Kayışkıran told Sunday's Zaman that governors and mayors do not have the right to open or close education institutions. “A recent regulation of the Education Ministry stated that only the ministry is entitled to open or close education institutions. The notices sent to shut down prep schools after the top court's decision have no legal basis,” Kayışkıran added.

The AK Party government's bill that bans privately owned university preparatory schools was passed by Parliament on March 7, 2014, and signed into law by then-President Abdullah Gül five days later. Under this law, all prep schools were to be shut down by Sept. 1 of this year. The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) later challenged the law, saying it was a blow to the right to free enterprise. The CHP filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court to annul the law last year.

On July 13, the Constitutional Court announced its long-awaited decision. It annulled the controversial law in a five-to-12 majority vote on the grounds that the law represented a violation of constitutional articles related to the right to education and freedom of labor.

On Sept. 18, the Council of State annulled a circular sent to every governor's office by the Ministry of Education that demanded all operating university preparation schools known as “dershanes” to be closed and that the ministry would take legal action against those currently in operation.

Prep schools are private institutes that help students prepare for standardized high school and college entrance exams. There has been concern that the law could block upward mobility in Turkish society and leave some 55,000 people jobless as a result of the closures of the schools.

Published on Today's Zaman, 7 November 2015, Saturday