Turkish government in bid for wider public support for prep school plan
The government has been lobbying hard to receive wide public support on the issue of private prep schools, with its education minister informing the ruling party deputies in detail over potential benefits of their plans for their electorates, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.
"We have explained to our deputies we will resolve this problem in a transition that will not victimize anybody," Education Minister Nabi Avcı told reporters yesterday after leaving a meeting at the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) headquarters where he briefed the deputies about the government's plan regarding private prep schools.
This was the second such meeting this week. The first meeting on the prep schools row was held at Parliament on Nov. 26. The row has been causing tension to run high between the Turkish government and the "Hizmet" (Service) Movement led by the Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, since the former announced plans to shut down private education courses in a bid to render the education system one that ensures equality for all.
The Gülen Movement, which owns approximately 30 percent of the prep schools in Turkey, has since escalated its vehement opposition to the government concerning the issue.
Avcı, however, refused to use the word "close down," on Nov. 28, insisting the move was aimed at a transformation of the private prep schools.
"Do not distort the issue, I beg you," Avcı said, underlining the importance of the public's correct comprehension of the issue. "Let's not degenerate the future status of these institutions, as they will transform later," Avcı added, noting the private prep schools, which will turn into private high schools, will additionally be unburdening the state's share in the education sector.
During the first meeting in Parliament, some deputies had reportedly objected to the government's plan. Avcı was asked whether there were dissenting voices within the party's parliamentary group.
"The deputies conveyed some opinions about the timing, such as expanding this [move] to a certain period of time and doing it after the elections," Avcı said. Yet, he added it would be useful to implement the plan as quickly as possible in order not to allow any more speculation.
"We have shared this [view] with our friends and they have been perceptive in their response," he said.
Meanwhile, Avcı strictly ruled out that his ministry imposed a press accreditation earlier this week and excluded media bodies that have not been pro-government.
They had not planned any press availability when they gathered with representatives of the private prep schools on Nov. 28 because they did not want to drag representatives into a fait accompli without having their consent for such an occasion, Avcı explained. However, later, after receiving their consent, a press statement was hastily made without having any time for a proper announcement, he added.