New curriculum offers Turkish students a chance to learn Malay, Urdu

The Education Ministry has completed its school curriculum overhaul. For 18 million elementary and high school students around the country, that means they now have the chance to choose Urdu and Malay as elective language classes.

Malay, a language spoken by around 280 million people in Southeast Asia, and Urdu, the main language widely spoken in Pakistan, will be offered as elective courses for students in Turkey.

The move follows the expansion of the languages offered at state elementary and high schools to include Chinese, Korean and Persian.

Alpaslan Durmuş from the Education Ministry said feedback from experts, teachers, parents and students were utilized in preparing the new curriculum.

"We need to be aware that a curriculum is a living, breathing thing that needs to be updated regularly," Durmuş said.

He explained that the aim was to lighten the load while making information more effective.

"Revolutions are never easy. We also need to admit that in certain categories, we have failed. Mathematics genius Thales of Miletus did not know trigonometry [in the seventh century B.C.], but we continue to insist on teaching it to our children. We can't change it because mathematicians are against it. Some can't simply say that those who are taught engineering at universities should learn trigonometry," he said.

He added that despite resistance, they were able to simplify about 20 percent to 60 percent.

"For a broader simplification, we need a change in mentality and we are not there yet," Durmuş said.

When asked about the concept of jihad, he said it was natural to include it in the curriculum.

"Education is also aimed at correcting misidentified concepts. We will do that for jihad, too. Jihad is mentioned in the Quran many times. In the first draft, jihad was included in sixth and ninth grade. Because sixth is too soon and the ninth is too packed, we decided to teach the concept of jihad in 11th grade. We underlined the fact that jihad in Islam does not solely mean war, but also means people's attempts to seek good while turning their back on bad," he said.

He added that no curriculum would be complete without the founder of the country, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.