MUSTAFA MERT BİLDİRCİN
The Secular Education Congress organized at facilities of Middle Eastern Technical University (METU) Alumni Association by Turkey’s United HAZİRAN (June) Movement was completed yesterday (September 11). The Congress, where the issue of religionization of education system was addressed and discussed thoroughly, lasted for two days.
At the sessions of the first day which were held under the title of ‘Structural Dimension of Religionization in Education’ lawmaker Gaye Usluer of main opposition party CHP (Republican People’s Party), Özgür Bozdoğan of trade union Eğitim Sen, along with BirGün columnist Ünal Özmen, took part as guest speakers.
The opening remarks were delivered by Bayazıt İlhan, who emphasized that the latest controversial revisions in the curricula were the ‘last wave of the reactionary movement’, said ‘Turkey has been dragged down with neoliberal political Islamist policies since the coup of 12 September 1980’.
On the second day of the Congress, the ideological dimension of the religionization in education was discussed, along with the struggle for secular and scientific education and the historical and contemporary aspects of fight for secularism. A number of esteemed scholars and authors participated in the session of the second day.
In the final declaration released at the end of the Congress, the participants vowed to ‘not leave schools to the hands of bigot foundations and associations and to fight against these reactionary institutions’.
The recent protocols of Turkey’s National Education Ministry signed with a number of reactionary and religious groups and association to hand down several activities – artistic, sportive, cultural, etc. - were also pointed out in the final declaration, which stated that the governments of AKP have been using the education field to reach its goal of spreading religionization throughout all parts of life.
Asserting that all protocols with such purpose and the reactionary revisions must be eliminated, the representatives of HAZİRAN also noted in the declaration that educators and scholars defending a ‘modern, secular, and scientific system of education that is based on democratic principles, gender equality, and pluralism’ are being targeted as part of the efforts of the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party), which has openly declared its desire to ‘raise a generation that is religious, revengeful, and jihadist’.
The fault lines of the 4+4+4 system; violation of children’s right to education through early marriages and/or child labor; and, poverty as a barrier to have access to education were among the other issues brought up for discussion during the Congress.
“For a bright future and for a democratic Turkey, secularism is a must”, the declaration concluded.