Skip to main content

Erdogan Islamizes education system to raise 'devout youth'

Religious education may become compulsory in primary schools in Turkey following the transformation of hundreds of secular schools into religious education establishments.
Students of Tevfik Ileri Imam Hatip School eat and chat during a break in Ankara November 18, 2014. Turkey has seen a sharp rise in religious schooling under reforms which President Tayyip Erdogan casts as a defence against moral decay, but which opponents see as an unwanted drive to shape a more Islamic nation. Almost a million students are enrolled in "imam hatip" schools this year, up from just 65,000 in 2002 when Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party first came to power, he told the opening of one of the s

Back on Feb. 1, 2012, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a speech to his party’s senior members that raised alarm and sparked heated debates over the future of secular education and the secular state in Turkey. Responding to criticism by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Erdogan said: “He says I’m dividing Turkey [into] the devout and the godless. I've never spoken of devout and godless people. I’ve spoken about raising a devout youth. I stand behind this. Mr. Kilicdaroglu, how could you expect us to raise an atheist generation? This could be your own objective, but not ours.”

Not surprisingly, Islamizing the education system would be Erdogan’s first step in “raising a devout generation.” Three years later, the topics of discussion and decisions taken at last week’s meeting of the National Education Council show that the government has, indeed, made significant strides in Islamizing education.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 for annual access.