Following ‘Erdogan in the classroom’ discussion, Turkish-German row focuses on Turkish teachers

Following “Erdoğan in the classroom” discussion in the country, Turkish-German row has now more focused on the teachers sent by Turkish government to Germany for education of Turkish immigrants. Because, according to a news report published by German news channel Deutsche Welle (DW), many in Germany fear that Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s nationalist agenda may be making its way into German classrooms.

Turkey has been sending teachers to Germany to teach Turkish to the children of immigrants for decades. But now, many are questioning whether they’re spreading Turkish government propaganda. According to the DW report, especially the Federation of German Teachers (GEW) has been sounding alarm bells that the curriculum is becoming increasingly nationalist and also religious.

Relations between Germany and Turkey have been souring in recent months, especially since last July’s failed coup attempt, which triggered a large-scale crackdown on alleged conspirators and anyone perceived to be opposed to Erdoğan’s rule, of which German officials have been highly critical.

The row – which has spilled over into Germany, creating an ever deepening rift between Erdoğan’s supporters and his opponents – escalated after Berlin blocked campaign events by Turkish ministers earlier this month ahead of a referendum vote to boost Erdoğan’s powers. Erdoğan, in turn, accused Germany of using “Nazi” methods.

To make matters worse, Ankara has jailed German journalist Deniz Yücel who holds a Turkish passport – and it has emerged that Diyanet/DİTİB imams in mosques in Germany with links to Ankara, as well as Turkish secret agents, may have been spying on opponents and even German politicians in the country.

And now, many fear, Erdogan’s nationalist agenda may be making its way into German classrooms. The Federation of German Teachers (GEW) has been sounding alarm bells that the curriculum is becoming increasingly nationalist and also religious.

According to DW report, for a long time, no one seemed to care that Turkish officials set the curricula of the classes which thousands of children in Germany, many of them now German citizens, attended each week with no supervision from German authorities or schools. But with Turkish-German relations spiraling towards an all-time low in recent months, politicians across the board have begun calling for increased scrutiny.

“The problem is that we just don’t know what’s happening in these classes,” said Hildegard Bentele, a politician with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), who acts as the party’s spokeswoman for education policy in Berlin. It was time, she told DW, to take a more critical look at the classes and, in the long-run, replace them with state-funded and supervised courses, “because of worrying developments in Turkey which may be transported to Germany and into our schools.”

But, Matthias Schneider, a spokesman for GEW concedes, it’s hard to tell for sure, because no one is actually monitoring the classes. “We’ve had some complaints, but we just don’t know what’s going on.”

After all, critics agree that Ankara is unlikely to send any teachers who oppose Erdoğan’s increasingly nationalist worldview, given the wide-spread purges among critics, including in schools and universities in Turkey. And politician Bentele, for one, points to the eight new teachers who will take up their jobs in Berlin this year: “I’m pretty sure they’re going to be loyal to Erdoğan,” she said.

Meanwhile, some Turkish-language teachers employed by the German government in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia fear that parents may pull their children out of the regular Turkish classes, as they perceive their state-sanctioned curricula as not being pro-Erdoğan enough, GEW’s Sebastian Krebs told DW. The dilemma further cements the ever-deepening rift between those in Germany supporting and opposing the regime in Ankara.

April 5, 2017

Take a second to support SCF on Patreon!