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Turkey may teach Kurdish at public schools

Source : Agencies | 12 Jun 2012

Kurdish language classes might be included in the Turkish school system as elective courses, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay has said, announcing that the government was working on a new proposal to expand the scope of Turkey's democratic initiative to give more cultural rights to the Kurds.

In remarks made on Sunday, Atalay said: “The new education package has many dimensions, including one on teaching [students'] mother tongue. We are still working on this. The prime minister will make the final announcement on this.”

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to announce the introduction of elective Kurdish language classes in his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) group meeting this week. The government recently introduced changes to the education system that divided the total educational period into three consecutive stages of four years; formulated as “4+4+4” years. Sources say Kurdish courses will be available from the secondary school level -- the second group -- for three or four periods a week. Since there are currently no Kurdish language or literature specialists in the teaching field, the classes will be taught by ‘master teachers' who are fluent in the language.

Atalay's indication that “learning one's mother tongue” would be included in the changes to the education system mirrors an earlier statement made by Education Minister Ömer Dinçner, who had said, during talks on the “4+4+4” proposal before it was adopted in Parliament, that Kurdish might be one of the classes taught in Turkish schools.

An unnamed source from the National Education Ministry who was quoted by the Vatan daily on Monday said Kurdish language courses might be announced as early as this week. Officials expect many children in the East and Southeastern provinces of Turkey, which are mainly Kurdish-dominated areas, to elect for these classes.

The same source reported that Kurdish will be made available for students similar to other foreign language classes. Currently, language classes for English, German and French are available in most Turkish schools. Students will have the option of choosing Kurdish over another foreign language or take it in addition to another language class.

There will also be CDs and DVDs to help students learn Kurdish. These materials will also include information on the Kurdish culture.

The Education Ministry is also considering allowing some private schools to use Kurdish as the main language of education, though nothing has been done on this issue as yet, sources note.

However, there are problems with providing Kurdish instructors for these classes. Resolution 80 of the Council of Training and Education lists the specific graduates that are allowed to teach specific courses, but Kurdish is not mentioned in this resolution.

In 2011, Turkey's first Kurdish language departments opened in the Mardin Artuklu and Muş Alparslan universities. The first alumni of these two schools will graduate in 2015. Batman University is also expected to start up a Kurdish language department very soon.