More piety could cost Turkish students’ overall education - Qantara

A Turkish Education Ministry report revealing poor student performance has led critics to blame President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s push to send more children to religious schools, Islam-focused news outlet Qantara reported.

The ministry’s July report showed that 66 percent of the country’s students from the 4th and the 8th grades had low reading comprehension skills and 16 percent of students had a below basic understanding of mathematics.

Critics see a connection between the poor performance and the many new Imam Hatip schools being founded, the article said, pointing to the lower number of students from the religious schools passing the examination to gain access to higher education. 

Only 18 percent of applicants from Imam Hatip schools earned places at university, compared with 35 percent from regular state schools.

Originally used to train imams and preachers, the number of Imam Hatip schools has tripled in the last five years, thanks to measures introduced by Erdoğan’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

As of 2018, there were 4,000 such schools in Turkey, educating more than 1.3 million students, with plans for more.

The ministry is aware of the shortcomings of the schools, the article said, and in 2016 launched a drive to improve the chances of Imam Hatip graduates getting into university and integrating more social and natural science subjects into the curriculum.

Some critics, such as education union leader Ali Aydın said discussion should focus on the entire educational system, and not just Imam Hatip schools.

The president, himself an Imam Hatip graduate, is vocal about his desire to create a religious generation, the article said, and by making religion a priority, he may be damaging students’ secular education.