All Turkish teachers to undergo religious education

All Turkish teachers to undergo religious education
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Ministry of National Education introduces compulsory religious training.

by Osman Cakli

Turkey's Ministry of National Education (MoNE) has stirred controversy with its newest directive. In an unprecedented move, all teachers across the nation's 81 provinces will be mandated to undergo religious education classes from November 11-17, during the first mid-term break of the academic year. The training, encompassing the topic "Religious Lessons and Teaching in Basic Education and Secondary Education Institutions," will be dispensed by Ahmet İsleyen, the Director General of Religious Education.

Unprecedented universal training

Marking a significant departure from traditional in-service training programs, the MoNE's decision to impart religious education to teachers of all disciplines has become a focal point of discussion.

Before this directive, teachers attended specialized in-service training seminars pertinent to their respective fields, ensuring enhanced competency and updated knowledge within their domains. Educator Feray Aytekin Aydogan underscored the novelty of this initiative, stating, "With the new practice, religious education will be given to all teachers for the first time."

The compulsion of this training for teachers of every discipline, regardless of their professional specialization, has ignited debates on its implications and underlying motives.

Concerns over secular education

Aydogan voiced concerns about the autonomy and influence of the General Directorate of Religious Education, suggesting its aspirations to mold the educational landscape according to its ideological leanings. Recollecting a 2012 assertion by AKP (Justice and Development Party) spokespeople, who envisaged transforming all schools into imam hatip institutions, Aydogan fears the manifestation of such proclamations.

The recent emphasis on religious education, including mandatory prayer rooms in schools and the potential segregation of genders, poses questions about the secular nature of the Turkish educational system. Aydogan highlighted the necessity to preserve students' rights to secular and public education, scrutinizing the apparent ideological shift suggested by these changes.

Changes under scrutiny

The recent controversial statements and regulations Minister of National Education Yusuf Tekin introduced have sparked a public uproar. Advocating for the endorsement of white coats in schools, proposing the option of gender-specific institutions, and mandating prayer rooms in pre-schools, Tekin's policy shifts align with the contentious mandatory religious training for teachers.

As the Turkish educational landscape undergoes these transformative measures, preserving secular, inclusive, and comprehensive education emerges as a pivotal concern. The compulsory religious education for all teachers, irrespective of their specialization, marks a historic first and point of contention, prompting national reflection on the delicate balance between religious education and secular learning environments.

This latest mandate by MoNE underscores the ongoing debate on the role and scope of religious education within the nation's academic institutions, heralding a period of intense discourse and evaluation.