According to a report released by Turkey’s Education Ministry, Islamization of Turkish education system has geared up during the educational year of 2017-2017. While there were 3,110 İmam-Hatip schools in Turkey at the beginning of the school year in 2015, this number has increased to 4,112 as 1,002 new İmam-Hatip schools were opened. The total number of students in these schools has also increased to 1 million 155 thousand 932.
According to a report by BirGün daily, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s primary investment in İmam-Hatip schools is also visible in data regarding ratios of students per class and teachers per students. Last year, the average number of students per class in İmam-Hatip high schools was 16,8 and the students per teacher were 12,3. However, in other high schools, such as the schools with concentration on natural and social sciences and foreign language, there were an average of 26,3 students per classroom and 15 students per teacher.
The report has showed that Turkey’s Education Ministry has especially overlooked the elementary schools, which currently cannot be turned into İmam-Hatips. The number of public elementary schools decreased continuously throughout the terms of AKP governments, while private schools at this level increased.
Turkey’s Islamist and autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is also an imam-hatip graduate, and his AKP have been trying to Islamize Turkish educational system in line of their political Islamist goals and so to increase the number of imam-hatip schools, which fell due to state policies following a postmodern coup on Feb. 28, 1997.
A report, released by the Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF) on March 2017 on the fate and state of private educational institutions and educators affiliated with the Gülen movement in Turkey and abroad, has also revealed that the most of the Gülen movement affiliated secular private science schools in the country were transformed into religious İmam-Hatip Schools as part of the top to down Islamization and radicalization policies followed by Turkish government under the rule of Islamist autocratic President Erdoğan.
According to the report by JWF titled “Assault on Education in Turkey and Abroad”, as secondary religious schools İmam-Hatip schools have experienced a four-fold annual increase in terms of the students attending these schools during the first nine years of the rule of Justice and Development Party (AKP).
In addition to general İmam-Hatipization of Turkish educational system, the most of the closed private schools and dormitories, which were affiliated with the Gülen movement, were also converted into İmam-Hatip schools in the aftermath of the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Since Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan and most of his close radical Islamist collaborators are all graduates of İmam-Hatip schools, they contributed to a massive increase in the number of İmam-Hatip schools and students in Turkey.
However, according to JWF report, despite the extensive support by the government, İmam-Hatip schools’ overall performance have remained extremely poor. One test of 40 math question in 2015, students at İmam-Hatip schools averaged only 2,18 correct answers. In comparison, students of FEN Lisesi averaged 28,42 correct answers on the same test. The wider significance of İmam-Hatip schools has been a constant source of contention, with many viewing them as “problem ridden institutions” which are breeding grounds for radicals.
Citing that the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 unquestionably changed the entire social fabric and political context in the country, the report stated that “The state of emergency enabled the government to consolidate power and continue unabated its efforts to eliminate the Gülen movement. This will have a long-lasting negative effect on the future of the country… In the aftermath of the attempted coup the confiscated land and thousands of buildings belonging to the Gülen inspired schools, dormitories and hospitals were considered as “war spoils” and shared among pro-government individuals and companies. Equally worrisome, many of the facilities were transformed into religious education facilities (İmam-Hatip schools), with the ongoing State of Emergency contributing to the further radicalization of Turkish society.”
The report analyzed the situation as follow: “Efforts to eradicate the Gülen movement, a renowned international movement combating extremism and radicalization by promoting secular education with a specific emphasis on peace building, will contribute to the rise of radicalization. Such efforts will inevitably have their own cost and long-term negative social and political repercussions in Turkey, the volatile Middle East, and beyond.”
The report has also stated that “One of the major effects of this change in the government’s education policy has been the damage already inflicted to the traditional mainstream understanding of Islam across Turkish society. Turkish citizens have always been antagonistic to any form of extremism; this is in part due to the efforts of educational institutions, such as Gülen inspired schools. The current rise in homegrown radicalization is another sign that Turkey’s social fabric is undergoing a harmful change. This is unfortunately; reflected in the number of terrorist attacks and victims killed by terrorism…”
Giving some examples of the private science schools which were affiliated with the Gülen movement and transformed into religious İmam-Hatip schools after government seizures, JWF’s report has stated that “Apart from serious concerns on the quality of education in İmam-Hatip schools, given the importance of Turkey and its unique geo-strategic position, the deepening radicalization of Turkish society poses a serious threat to Turkey’s democracy and security and also to the security of other NATO member states.”