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Erdogan's 'New Turkey' aspires teaching 'Old Turkish'

Following the National Education Council's proposal to make Ottoman-language instruction compulsory for high school students, Alevis, Kurds and secular Turks oppose the decision, fearing further marginalization.
School girls perform during the singing competition of the Turkish Language Olympics in Istanbul June 3, 2009. The Turkish Language Olympics -- in its seventh year -- has drawn 700 children from 115 countries to Turkey to compete in singing, poetry reciting and prose composition, and receive encouragement in their studies with a visit to the president. Picture taken June 3, 2009. To match feature TURKEY-RELIGION/SCHOOLS     REUTERS/Halit Omer Camci (TURKEY EDUCATION SOCIETY) - RTR24DSP

Prior to December, not many Turks had ever heard of the National Education Council or its functions. Yet, the council held its 19th meeting Dec. 2-6 in Antalya and made the headlines of all Turkish newspapers. The first time the council made the news was the controversial opening speech President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave Dec. 2. Erdogan said, “Today, Turkish children know who Einstein is, but are clueless about Ibn Sina.” (Ibn Sina is a Muslim scholar from the 11th century.)

The council’s agenda was laden with rather unconventional topics such as segregating schools by gender, banning cocktail-mixing classes in tourism courses and introducing religious classes for kindergarten and the first three years of elementary school. The debates became so heated that on Dec. 4, Minister of Education Nabi Avci declared the council off-limits for the press, which raised further curiosity and tension.

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