Sunday, April 1, 2012

The toll of the long-debated education bill, also known as 4+4+4

The long-debated education bill, also known as 4+4+4, passed on March 30. Among other things, the bill foresaw a twelve-year compulsory education (broken down to three tiers of four years each), the introduction of optional Quranic studies courses in the second four years, and a lowering down of the age of first grade primary school students from seven to six years of age. As reported in the Hurriyet Daily News, "[a]fter four years of primary education, students could chose vocational schools, among them the imam-hatip religious schools which are currently open to secondary school graduates. The bill provides the option of home study in the third tier -- a contentious measure that critics say would encourage patriarchal families to take their daughters from school and marry them off." "The bill overturned a 1997 law forced through by the military that stopped children aged under 15 attending religious "imam hatip" schools. The schools were originally set up to train Islamic clerics," wrote BBC News, also underscoring the fist fight that MPs got involved in during the debate on the bill. GIT North America had previously published a post on the question of gender segregation as part of the educational reform.

Members of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Public Employees (KESK) who opposed the bill and took to the streets to protest against and tried to travel from different parts of the country to the capital
Ankara were met with violence from the police and custody en masse. Bianet reported that "85 KESK members who came to Ankara from Adana on Tuesday evening were taken into police custody. Entry to the capital was denied to groups from Izmir, Aydın, Balıkesir, Manisa, Kocaeli, Bursa, Malatya, Batman, Urfa, Konya, Hatay, Zonguldak and Tokat." Images of the protest in Ankara provide a chilling account of the heavy-handed response of the police force, armed with tanks, tear gas, and water cannons, to a peaceful protest by education workers. Prior to the passing of the bill, Bianet had also published a comprehensive piece on the specifics of the (then draft) bill, reporting that "[...] a study conducted by the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV), the annual budget for this educational year would have to be increased by a minimum of 54 percent if the draft bill was going to pass into law. The cost of the educational year would increase by TL 20.7 billion in order to secure and improve the quality of education."