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Lack of students leads to closure of minority schools in Turkey

Lack of students leads to closure of minority schools in Turkey

PanARMENIAN.Net - A lack of students in Turkey's minority schools is leading them to close down, says a report issued by the History Foundation.

According to Cihan news agency, the report, released at a foundation press conference, says that the steady decline in Turkey's minority populations, a rising preference among minority students to study at non-minority schools and enrolment limitations applied by the state have drawn student populations at minority schools down so far that many have had to close. The surviving

Armenian and Jewish schools seem to have reached stable enrolment levels, but low enrolment remains the single biggest problem facing Greek schools. In the 2012-13 academic year, 3,137 students attended Armenian schools, including 67 Armenian citizens; 230 students attended Greek schools (including students of Greek nationality) and 688 students attended Jewish schools.

"The number of students attending these schools may be increased and the schools may be saved from closure if students who are not Turkish citizens or who do not belong to the same minority [group] are allowed to enroll," the report says.

One of the biggest problems the report mentioned is the ambiguous status of Turkey's minority schools, which are officially considered neither private schools nor foreign schools. However, minority schools are still associated by the public with private and foreign schools, and are subjected to the legislation regulating private schools -- including a rule that prevents them from accepting students above a quota allocated by the ministry of education, which causes major financial problems and often makes it difficult for minority schools to survive on their budgets.

Another problem the report mentions is the reciprocity principle and minority schools. Though minority schools are affiliated with foundations managed by Turkish citizens and attended by Turkish citizens, the principle of reciprocity is imposed on the development of legislation governing these schools and in defining their rights and obligations. For example, if a Greek school in Turkey wants to hire a teacher who is a Greek national, the Turkish government will require Greece to hire a Turkish teacher to teach at a school in Greece.

According to the report, this reciprocity principle equates minorities with foreigners, offending them and forcing them to deal with a large number of bureaucratic and political problems. The report suggests dropping the principle of reciprocity when preparing legislation governing minority schools.

Yet another challenge minority schools face is a lack of trained teachers as Turkish universities do not offer specialized education in this field. The History Foundation suggests the establishment of special departments for each minority group's schools in Turkish universities.

No public authority or private institution is responsible for preparing the textbooks and education materials needed by the minority schools of the Armenian, Greek and Jewish communities, the report says. "Schools should also be provided with support for the translation and printing of textbooks. It is suggested that a special unit with a suitable budget and employing an adequate number of qualified employees be set up to develop textbooks and educational materials for minority schools in Turkey. This unit should be financed by the state.”

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