Armenian community in Turkey gets more freedom in education
by Daily Sabah
ISTANBULNov 11, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah
Nov 11, 2015 12:00 am
Turkey's Armenian community is looking forward to a groundbreaking change in their freedom of religion. There will be questions on their own religion instead of questions focusing on Islam in a grade school exam.
Armenian students in Turkey had long been challenged by questions on the Primary to Secondary Education (TEOG) exam, which is held for admission of grade school students to secondary school.
This year, like Jewish students who were allowed to answer questions on Judaism for the first time in 2014, Armenian students will be exempted from questions on Islam and instead, answer questions on Christianity based on textbooks prepared by Armenian priests.
The first of the set of exams held throughout the academic year will be held on Nov. 25 with 218 students at 13 Armenian schools in Istanbul.
Armenian students were recently handed new textbooks to prepare them for the exam. Tatul Anuşyan, a leading Armenian cleric in charge of preparing the textbooks and TEOG questions told the Istanbul-based Armenian Agos daily earlier that they were already working on updating textbooks for Armenian students and they appreciated the National Education Ministry's approach to change the religious curriculum and inclusion of questions on Christianity.
Turkey has a small Christian community, mainly Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Catholics and Syriacs along with smaller Catholic and Protestant congregations. A religious curriculum for the Christian community has long been on the agenda of the National Education Ministry. Media reported last year that the ministry contacted prominent Christian groups in the country seeking their assistance in establishing Christian theology classes to be offered as elective courses at grade schools.
The country's non-Muslim minorities have long been treated as second-class citizens and deprived of their rights such as opening their own schools. Since the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power in 2002, minorities have seen an improvement in their rights such as the return of properties belonging to minority communities years after they were seized by the state.
Religious curricula have been a thorny issue in Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, especially for members of the Alevi faith, a branch of Shiite Islam. They claim Sunni Islam is being imposed on Alevi children through obligatory religion classes that focus on Sunni Islam. In September, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a verdict stating that Turkey must reform its religious curriculum in schools "to ensure respect for parents' convictions."