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.