Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday reiterated his government’s determination to shut down prep schools despite mounting opposition from various groups, teachers, owners of prep institutions and businesspeople, signaling further tension over the thorny issue.

Speaking at the provincial branch of the Education Directorate in the northern province of Trabzon early on Sunday, Erdoğan called on owners of prep schools to take part in the government project to transform the study centers into private schools, promising to deliver financial assistance to owners.

The government plan to shut down prep schools has sparked fierce debates among the public as most experts expressed their skepticism and doubts over the project, citing many loopholes and obstacles that could derail the implementation of such a plan.

Erdoğan once again struck a defiant tone, questioning the record of success of the prep schools despite the substantial empirical evidence suggesting that prep courses and study centers play a key role in bringing success to students who face less than favorable socio-economic conditions.

“We have hired nearly 400,000 teachers in the education sector in the past 11 years. We are contemplating employing 10,000 teachers by February, and also considering bringing 40,000 more teachers into the education system by August,” said Erdoğan, disclosing his government’s plan on improving the education system to address its most intractable need, the shortage of teachers in high schools.

Erdoğan called on owners of prep schools, which help students with high school and university entrance exams, to establish new private schools, promising government assistance to those who will venture to build such schools.

However, critics of the government say the transformation of the prep schools is not a realistic prospect. The founder of a leading prep school chain in Turkey has said that the government is seeking to abolish these private educational institutions, as it is not realistic to turn them into private schools.

Speaking to Today’s Zaman last week, the founder of Final Dergisi Prep School, Zeki Çobanoğlu, said that none of the school’s 236 branches across Turkey could meet the requirements the government has specified to be transformed into private schools in order to avoid complete closure, part of a recent plan announced by the government.

According to Çobanoğlu, only 7.7 percent of the 3,640 prep schools in Turkey meet the requirements to become private schools. “The Ministry of Education says that the state will employ the teachers who will lose their jobs when the prep schools are closed. Is this more state control or privatization?” Çobanoğlu asked, as he criticized an announcement that the government would open courses in public education centers while closing prep schools.

source: todayszaman