Turkish schools and the race in philanthropy!

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The government is in a strange effort to close down Turkish schools abroad. Some time ago they announced a determination to block any activity and got in the way of the Turkish Olympiad.

Why would anyone be bothered by a touching, sweet competition, where students from all around the world come and see our country, sing Turkish songs and recite Turkish poetry?

And now they try to destroy the greatest “cultural lobby” in Turkish history – a lobby that flies the Turkish flag and teaches Turkish.

They try to shut down Turkish schools –the outcome of efforts of a quarter century– that act as commercial bridges for Turkish businesspeople.

President Erdoğan announced at his visit to Ethiopia:

“Both I, the prime minister and other ministers explain the situation about those schools to our counterparts in the countries we visit; we ask them to close them down and tell we can provide the same services through the Turkish Ministry of Education…”

Then, Prime Minister Davutoğlu announced in Davos that the Education Ministry has been working on something.

“There is a strategic decision we have made: to unite all educational activities. I believe it will be ready and proposed to the Cabinet next week…”

Government spokesman and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said the effort was discussed at the last Cabinet meeting and a presentation was made.ınç reminded the limits set by law and said, “We don’t have a duty to close down the Turkish schools there, and we lack the power, too.”

“If those schools are run like commercial firms are we may suggest their takeover, acquisition or association with some other partner. We are not a state that rules over the world on its own; we are not in a position to instruct the 160 countries spread around the globe to close these schools down…”

Arınç’s words reveal how futile an attempt it would be to make education identical across the world, even more so when schools in Turkey are not regulated that way.

It is hard to understand officials who, while holding foreign schools in Turkey in high esteem and starting private educational institutions themselves, think of “instructing” the world to the contrary.

So here is the real question that needs to be answered:

Why would Turkish politicians be bothered by tens of thousands of youngsters in more than 160 countries –including Kenya, Afghanistan, Yemen, Turkmenistan, Romania, Burma, Indonesia and Brazil– learning Turkish, or by the fact that these young people receive private education under the supervision of the Turkish Ministry of Education?

These students –varying in color, language and religion– are neither Turkish citizens, nor do they vote in elections in Turkey.

The mentality that, despite acquired rights, decides to shut down prep schools on grounds they are private enterprises can be expected to close down any other private school across the country.

Yet, it is hard to believe that they give “instructions” to more than 160 countries and force them to act against law.

As a government, Turkey has the potential to spread similar educational services across the world.

The Yunus Emre Institutes, Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA) and Turkish Ministry of Education may engage in new efforts, starting a “race in philanthropy”!

Yet, they prefer to undermine Turkey’s thriving international brands in order to change the domestic agenda; and to use these arguments as policy tools is not in the interest of the country.

We should be flying new flags in each country while we can; there is no logical explanation in trying to take down the ones that were flown before the present politicians were on stage.

The late ex-President Özal, Mister Demirel, late ex-Prime Minister Ecevit and hundreds of other Turkish statesmen put their signature under these schools; foresightedly, they stood behind them – who would be bothered by such an achievement and why?

Why would they be disturbed by the spread of the Turkish language, the fact that Turkey is becoming a focus of affection, and the establishment of cultural and commercial links with more than 160 countries?

Tens of thousands of candidates compete to get into these schools, which are dearly upheld by host countries and are named for their international achievements. So instead of looking for ways to close them down, Turkey should try to reward and encourage them.

We should try to improve what is already a remarkable success; it is not the time to undermine the globally envied and admired works that are the combined product of the Anatolian people’s benevolence, entrepreneurs’ efforts and teachers’ altruism.

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