Turkey re­moves evo­lu­tion from cur­ricu­lum

Gov­ern­ment ac­cused of ‘brain­wash­ing’ stu­dents

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

A move by the Turk­ish ed­u­ca­tion min­istry to re­move evo­lu­tion from the na­tional school cur­ricu­lum has sparked an out­cry and ac­cu­sa­tions the gov­ern­ment is “brain­wash­ing” stu­dents. The gov­ern­ment says the change-part of a broad re­vi­sion of the school cur­ricu­lumwill mod­ern­ize learn­ing. But crit­ics see it has a step back from sci­en­tific rigor to­wards cre­ation­ism by the Is­lami­c­rooted au­thor­i­ties un­der Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan.

The head of the Turk­ish ed­u­ca­tion board, Al­parslan Dur­mus, said in a video mes­sage evo­lu­tion would no longer be taught in bi­ol­ogy lessons in high schools from Septem­ber on­wards as it was “con­tro­ver­sial”. “We have left aside some con­tro­ver­sial sub­jects be­cause we know it is not pos­si­ble for our stu­dents to have the nec­es­sary sci­en­tific or in­for­ma­tion back­ground to un­der­stand them,” Dur­mus said. The the­ory-for­mu­lated by Charles Dar­win in the 19th cen­tury as the the­ory of nat­u­ral se­lec­tion-would be stud­ied from uni­ver­sity-level on­wards.

The change is not the only shift in a planned cur­ricu­lum over­haul that will be im­ple­mented by 2019. Dur­mus also said the cur­ricu­lum would move away from “a eu­ro­cen­tric point of view”, es­pe­cially in his­tory lessons. The move comes af­ter Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Nu­man Kur­tul­mus said in Jan­uary the the­ory of evo­lu­tion was “a sci­en­tif­i­cally ob­so­lete and rot­ten the­ory”. “There is no rule say­ing that this the­ory must ab­so­lutely be stud­ied,” he said. Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Is­met Yil­maz said the new cur­ricu­lum-ap­proved by Er­do­gan-would “give chil­dren a much bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion”. The goal was to en­sure “our chil­dren and stu­dents do not just use knowl­edge and tech­nol­ogy but at the same time will cre­ate” them, Yil­maz said, quoted by Do­gan news agency on June 27.

‘Dan­ger­ous, back­ward’

Feray Aytekin Ay­do­gan, head of the sec­u­lar Egitim-Sen teach­ers’ union, de­scribed the move to re­move evo­lu­tion as “back­ward, dan­ger­ous”. Ay­do­gan said the move would make Turkey com­pare un­favourably with Iran, where she said stu­dents re­ceived 60 hours of lessons on evo­lu­tion and 11 hours on Dar­win. “We will not sur­ren­der to the dark­ness. We will con­tinue to pro­mote sci­en­tific ed­u­ca­tion,” said Ay­do­gan whose union rep­re­sents over 100,000 ed­u­ca­tion and science work­ers. Thou­sands of the union’s mem­bers were sus­pended from their jobs over al­leged links to Kur­dish mil­i­tants un­der the state of emer­gency, though many were later re­in­stated. The union de­nies any links to ter­ror­ism, say­ing it sup­ports sec­u­lar ed­u­ca­tion, peace and democ­racy.

Baris Yarkadas, a law­maker from the op­po­si­tion Repub­li­can Peo­ple’s Party (CHP), ac­cused the rul­ing Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AKP) of “brain­wash­ing” chil­dren and want­ing to iso­late Turkey. “What they want to do here is com­pletely re­move sec­u­lar and sci­en­tific ed­u­ca­tion to avoid a gen­er­a­tion that thinks, ques­tions or cre­ates,” he said. In­de­pen­dent law­maker Aylin Na­zli­aka agreed: “They want to cre­ate an ide­o­log­i­cal ap­pa­ra­tus with young peo­ple who think like them.” Dur­mus ex­plained in the video pub­lished on June 21 that the pur­pose was to pre­pare chil­dren for “to­mor­row”. Con­tacted by AFP, an ed­u­ca­tion min­istry of­fi­cial de­clined to com­ment on the con­tro­versy.

A New Turkey?

Crit­ics say there will also be fewer men­tions in the new cur­ricu­lum of the Turk­ish Repub­lic’s founder Mustafa Ke­mal Ataturk, who set up the mod­ern sec­u­lar Repub­lic in 1923 out of the ru­ins of the Ot­toman Em­pire. Ataturk be­lieved that in or­der to be a strong mod­ern state, Turkey had to em­brace val­ues like women’s rights, Western arts and also science. “This demo­cratic, sec­u­lar repub­lic has come about thanks to sci­en­tific ed­u­ca­tion,” the head of the Ke­mal­ist Thought As­so­ci­a­tion, which defends Ataturk’s legacy, Tansel Co­lasan said. She said the changes were part of the gov­ern­ment’s goal to cre­ate a “New Turkey” ahead of the Repub­lic’s 100th year an­niver­sary in 2023. “They want to re­move Ataturk’s name (and) those who built the Repub­lic from schools,” Na­zli­aka said.— AFP

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