Turkey to place top students in Islamic schools – report

Turkey plans to place nearly a quarter of its top-performing students in schools used to train Islamic clergy under new reforms of its education system, Arab News reported.

The top 10 percent of students in their final year of middle school will win places in specially selected schools under a new entrance exam in June, Turkish Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz said on Thursday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he aims to create a pious generation of Muslim Turks who will help lead a social and economic transformation of the country. The number of students at Imam Hatip schools, used to train clergy, have risen five-fold to 1.3 million students in six years.

Nearly 300 of the 1,367 schools selected to educate Turkey’s top students will be Imam Hatip schools.

“The government is trying to direct successful pupils toward Imam Hatips by raising their profile, having been unable to achieve the desired success and increase demand for them,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Utku Cakirozer told Reuters.

Minister Yilmaz said the government is not forcing parents to send their children to the schools and the allocation of pupils to religious schools is low compared with the 62 percent who attended science and regular high schools.

While Imam Hatip students make up 11 percent of the total upper school population, they were allocated some 23 percent of funding in this year’s budget, a Reuters report showed in January.

The Egitim-Sen teachers’ union said in a statement it was launching a court challenge to the new system, according to Arab News.

“The AKP continues to insist on a policy of making education religious,” it said, referring to Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party.