September 14, 2014

Gov't violates right to equal opportunity in education

The Ministry of Education has excluded some private schools from government incentives without any justification, violating the right to equal opportunity within education.

Representatives from private education institutions are frustrated because private schools affiliated with the Hizmet movement, a faith-based social movement inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, have been excluded from a list of schools eligible for government incentives.

“By discouraging students from attending Hizmet-affiliated private schools, which have been proven competitive institutions for university entrance exams and International Science Olympiads, the government is engaging in unlawful practices,” Active Educators' Union (Aktif Eğitim-Sen) Vice President Seyit Mehmet Tezcan told Sunday's Zaman.

Earlier this year the Ministry of Education decided to promote private education institutions to bring the number of students educated in private schools up to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries' average.

To encourage equal educational opportunities the ministry announced that it would give some financial aid to underprivileged students who want to enroll in private schools and accepted applications for both students and private schools between Aug. 8 and 25.

A guide including the specifications and criteria for eligibility was released by the ministry on Aug. 7.

The schools were asked to rank themselves based on the ministry's criteria. The rank would then determine whether the school would be included in the incentive program. However, when the lists were released on Sept. 1, many schools affiliated with the Hizmet movement were not on the government list. Some believe this indicates that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's government is discriminating against the movement, which has been critical of the government recently.

Moreover, more than a hundred schools that were deemed eligible for government incentives were removed from the list the evening after the list was released. At first officials from the ministry said it was a mistake, but then, seemingly having changed their mind, stated the schools were removed from the list following financial inspections.

Hüseyin Gürsel Durmaz, chairman of the Private Schools Association, complained that the schools excluded or dropped from the list had not been visited or even notified until they submitted a petition to directorates of national education about the so-called financial inspection. “The ministry sends an official note saying that the schools are under financial inspection as part of the fight against money laundering as a response to all the petitions submitted institutionally or in private,” he said.

Durmaz added: “Some schools that are still undergoing construction and haven't completed the official preparations for opening have been included in the list. The government is trying to unconstitutionally blacklist certain schools. None of the schools which are members of our association are under financial inspection, but even if they were, this cannot be a reason for exclusion until an institution is proved to be corrupt.”

The Hizmet-affiliated private Fatih School, Anafen School and Coşkun School networks are some of the schools that have been left out of the incentive program.

Private Fatih Schools Corporate Communications Coordinator Kemal Pehlivan, speaking to Sunday's Zaman, said: “Fifty-three schools in our network are listed in the Sept. 1 list and 39 of those listed schools were removed from the list on the same day due to the financial inspections. Our lawyers filed lawsuits against the government and requested a stay of execution.”

Gürhan Savgı, one of the parents of a student at the private Mehmet Aydoğan Primary School in the Fatih Schools network, stated that he will pursue administrative proceedings and said, “I was told by the provincial directorate for national education that if I transferred my child to a state school I could take advantage of the incentives and I did so.”

He added: “I discovered that my son and the private Mehmet Aydoğan Primary School was on the lists and that they were eligible for the incentive when the list was released on Sep. 1. However, it turned out that the school that I want my son to study at was then removed from the list.”

Kayseri Kılıçaslan Educational Institutions General Manager Ali Köksal said the Ministry of Education has violated Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states, “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” with its discriminatory policy.
Some officials and parents affected by schools being removed from the list have submitted petitions to courts all around the country.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 14 September 2014, Sunday

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