November 29, 2015

Top court’s dershane ruling cannot be ignored, Council of State tells Education Ministry

In the latest twist in the ongoing saga over the legal status of dershanes in Turkey, the country's Council of State has announced its reasoned decision concerning its ruling of a stay of a controversial Education Ministry regulation that would ban operation university preparation schools, saying that the ministry cannot take such a step regardless of a ruling from the country's Constitutional Court, which earlier this year annulled a law that sought to close down prep schools.

In August, education unions petitioned the Council of State regarding a 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.

Soon after the Constitutional Court announced its decision to annul the controversial law to close down prep schools 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.

In September, the Council of State ruled for a stay of the ministry's regulation. On Friday, the court posted its reasoned decision concerning its ruling on the National Judiciary Network Project (UYAP).

In its reasoned decision, the Council of State said the ministry cannot deactivate the Constitutional Court's ruling against the closure of prep schools. The court said the Education Ministry's regulation violates one's right to education and free enterprise.

Mehmet Kasap, a lawyer representing the Pak Education and Science Employees Union (Pak Eğitim-İş), who commented on the Council of State's ruling, said the decision made by the 8th Chamber of the Council of State provides a framework to all the regulations and circulars aimed to prevent the operation of prep schools.

A bill ordering the closure of prep schools 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 Sunday's Zaman, 29 November 2015, Sunday