Turkey's Constitutional Court made a landmark decision July 13. A law that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) passed some 16 months ago declaring all private university prep courses illegal was annulled. With this decision, the court not only saved Turkey’s private education sector from government intrusion but also proved that there are still some checks and balances left in the Turkish system.
The controversy over the prep courses had begun in the fall of 2013, when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suddenly vowed to close them all. Most high school students take these supplementary courses after graduating to prepare for the university entrance exams — the most important tests of their lives. Erdogan declared that the courses created an unnecessary workload for the students and exploited their quest for education. Yet as everyone knew, the real issue at stake was not education, but Erdogan’s political war with the Gulen movement, which operated about a quarter of all prep courses in Turkey. By late 2013, Erdogan had decided the movement, which was once his best ally, was now his worst enemy, and tried to minimize its influence by closing its prep courses, which he claimed also served as recruiting centers for new young members.