Turkey invests in girls' education

Posted: 22 February 2005

The Turkish government is paying families to "encourage" them to send their daughters to school, as part of its efforts to bring the number of girls in education into line with European standards. More than half of Turkey's young female population has no schooling, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

In the Kurdish-dominated east, the birth of girls tend not to be registered and most are forced to stay at home. Girls and women account for the vast majority of the 7 million people believed to be illiterate in the predominantly Muslim state.

With the help of UNICEF, some 140,000 girls aged between seven and 13 have been enrolled at school over the past 18 months. The campaign, which started in 10 towns, expanded into 53 of Turkey's 81 provinces last year.

"What we have to do is persuade parents about the virtues of education," said Turkey's Education Minister, Huseyin Celik, who sees his country's prospective membership of the European Union as a "civilisation project".

Celik, the son of a railway worker who attended London University, while his sisters failed to complete their schooling, told The Guardian newspaper that girls are deliberately kept out of the classroom by male relatives who see education as "some form of shame." He sees the right to education as a basic human right and aims to ensure that all girls have access to education.

Extra funds

For the first time, Turkey spent more on education than defence last year, allocating £5.5 billion to the sector. Some of the extra funds went towards "encouraging" parents to send their daughters to school.

"European values" are at the core of the biggest overhaul of Turkish schooling since the modern republic's creation in 1923. With 20 million pupils and students registered at primary, secondary and university level, Mr Celik said the aim was not only to bring the system in line with European standards, but to "democratise and modernise it".

Turkish textbooks, like the country's national curriculum, are viewed as among the most authoritarian and ideological in the world. Recently, schoolchildren began being "taught" democracy in an effort to promote critical thinking in a system that has long favoured learning by rote.

"There are 43,000 primary and secondary schools in Turkey and by the end of 2005 we want to have installed internet connections in all of them," the Minister said.

Source:The Guardian