A recent survey by the Turkey İmam-Hatip Alumni Foundation (TİMAV) has revealed that a majority of Turkish society holds a positive perception of imam-hatip schools -- public high schools that provide religious education.
The survey, titled “Perception of İmam-Hatip High Schools and İmam-Hatip Students in Turkey,” was conducted between April 24 and May 18 on 2,689 people in 26 provinces who are mostly not imam-hatip graduates. Out of 2,689, only 79 were imam-hatip graduates. The results of the survey were revealed on Wednesday at a press conference by TİMAV President Ecevit Öksüz and members from the research team.
The survey shows a majority of the respondents hold a positive perception of imam-hatip students and graduates. A total of 59.4 percent of respondents agreed that imam-hatip students and graduates respect all people, irrespective of their lifestyle. Furthermore, 60.6 percent said those affiliated with imam-hatip schools respect human rights, while 17.5 percent replied negatively to the same question.
Of the respondents, 56.6 percent said they disagreed with the statement, "İmam-hatip graduates cannot adapt to society," while 27.3 percent said they agreed.
Providing the following options, the survey also found that 27.5 percent of respondents said they very much want their child or a relative to enroll in an imam-hatip school, 21.1 percent said they would support those who wanted to enroll in such schools, 27.6 percent said they have respect for people who want to enroll and 20.3 percent of respondents said they don't want their child or a relative to enroll in an imam-hatip school. The remaining 3.5 percent said they don't care.
Pollsters also questioned respondents about their opinion of debates on religious education and the coefficient system of university entrance exam scoring -- which was abolished in 2011 but had been a handicap for many years for imam-hatip graduates wanting to enroll in a university program of their choice.
Of the respondents, 47.7 percent agreed that the coefficient system was an attempt to keep students from imam-hatip high schools out of universities.
According to the survey, an overwhelming majority of respondents (70.1 percent) think students at imam-hatip schools are provided moral education. Forty-seven percent did not agree with the suggestion that imam-hatip students should only be provided training on religion, while 35.6 percent agreed.
To the question on whether the number of imam-hatip schools should be increased, 51.5 percent replied “Yes,” while 29.3 percent said “No.” the remaining 19.2 percent said they don't know.
In an exclusive interview with Today's Zaman, Öksüz said that according to the data provided by the General Directorate of Religious Education, there are currently 538 imam-hatip high schools and 268,000 imam-hatip students in Turkey. The survey also showed that the majority of respondents (62 percent) are against the idea of closing imam-hatip schools.
The respondents were also asked about their opinion of the new compulsory education system commonly known as the 4+4+4 system, in which children will be able to enroll in imam-hatip schools after the first four years. Of the respondents, 45.8 percent said they find the new system appropriate to society and 28.9 percent responded negatively. The percent who said they don't know was 25.5.
An overwhelming majority (76.3 percent) were also in favor of elective courses on the Quran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad in schools other than imam-hatips, according to the survey. Amid heated debates, Parliament approved a bill in March that paved the way for such elective courses to be taught in schools.