Turkey's prep schools map out legal plan to fight possible ban

Representatives of prep schools make a statement on Monday against the government plans to ban private tuition schools. (Photo: Today's Zaman, Mehmet Ali Poyraz)

November 19, 2013, Tuesday/ 16:28:00

Representatives of Turkey's preparatory schools, specialized education centers that help prepare their students to pass the high school and university entrance examinations, have agreed on a legal plan to fight the possible adoption of legislation that would ban them.

The government has announced it is working on legislation to shut down all existing prep schools, arguing that they operate as a second education system. Opponents of the plan note that the prep schools are a consequence of the many inadequacies of Turkey's schools and education system, and note that by offering tutoring at affordable prices, they help low-income students enter university.

Unions representing the prep schools have been devising legal strategies to fight the possible ban. The Union of Private Preparatory Schools (ÖZDEBİR) recently issued a guidebook prepared under the supervision of Professor Sevtap Yokuş of Kocaeli University's law school that tells prep school owners what to do in case the government attempts to force their institutions to shut down. The guidebook includes evaluations of the matter from the perspectives of domestic and international law and on the basis of the rights to education, employment, contract and a fair trial. The ban would automatically create a number of instances of violations of these fundamental rights, the guidebook argues. It also puts forth that legislation that would force prep schools to halt their activities would be in violation of Articles 13, 36, 40, 42, 48, 49 and 74 of the Constitution. Forcing free enterprises to shut down is a violation of many universal legal principles, ÖZDEBİR's guidebook says, and suggests several methods to put up a legal fight against the possible ban.

The guidebook suggests appealing a possible closure with the Constitutional Court, citing constitutional violations. If the closure is not enacted through law but an administrative edict, such as a bylaw or a regulation, then prep school owners are advised to appeal the decision to the Council of State. The guidebook also suggests demanding compensation in court, both for monetary and emotional damages. The guidebook also speaks of what should be done to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) if domestic legal remedies are exhausted without results.

Violations listed one by one

The guidebook includes item-by-item lists of the violations a legal ban on prep schools would constitute. It emphasizes that the adoption of such legislation would be a violation of Article 13 of the Constitution on fundamental rights and freedoms, as well as of Article 42 of the Constitution and Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights' (ECHR) Protocol 1 on the right to education, which the guidebook notes includes teaching as well as learning. The ban would also be a violation of Articles 48 and 49 of the Constitution on the freedom to work and be employed.

Legal experts say the mere suggestion of banning certain private enterprises is a major blow to the principles of the rule of law. Education experts say the only way to move toward a system without prep schools is to improve regular schools and the education system and to reduce the number of centralized tests used for admission into high schools and universities.

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