Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and opposition leaders expressed opposing opinions regarding a recently proposed change to the education system that increases compulsory education from eight years to 12, at Tuesday’s parliamentary group meetings.
The new education system was the central topic of the parliamentary group meetings on Tuesday. Justice and Development party (AK Party) leader Erdoğan as well as the leaders of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lashed out at each other concerning the planned changes. Erdoğan and CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also directed criticism at each other’s deputies, who were involved in a brawl in Parliament on Sunday.
“Non-democratic forces enforced an uninterrupted education system. They enforced it based not on pedagogical concerns but out of ideological concerns. They did this to block imam-hatip schools. We are now addressing this injustice. We are trying to heal wounded consciences,” Erdoğan said during his party’s parliamentary group meeting and underscored that the current system is a remnant of the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention.
At the same time, the new law on education increased compulsory education from five years to eight, which according to many aimed at preventing children from attending imam-hatip schools before high school. İmam-hatip high schools are public high schools that provide additional religious education but have the status of vocational high schools.
Erdoğan also accused the CHP of being responsible for a fistfight that erupted between deputies during talks on the bill in a parliamentary commission. “What happened on Sunday is the work of the CHP’s raving deputies,” Erdoğan said. On Sunday Parliament’s Education Commission approved the bill amidst a brawl that erupted between CHP and AK Party deputies. The proposal will be discussed in the General Assembly in two weeks.
During his party’s group meeting, Kılıçdaroğlu defended the current system. He also asked Erdoğan why the proposal on the new education system was made at a late hour and why the AK Party did not take the proposed change to the Cabinet. “What kind of damage did the eight-year continuous education do to this country? Bring me a report. But there are many reports on its benefits,” he argued. About the brawl, Kılıçdaroğlu claimed the AK Party deputies went to the room where the proposed changes would be discussed to attack the CHP deputies. He also called Erdoğan a “postmodern dictator.”
MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli said despotism is the only way to describe exerting an effort to pass a proposal in haste and without listening to dissenting opinions. He argued that the proposal is a sign of the trouble to come, saying the insistence and obstinacy shown on the issue is leading to polarization in society.