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Discrimination based on Colour, Ethnic Origin, Language, Religion and Belief in Turkey’s Education System

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Turkey’s education system, despite the country’s legal commitments to provide equitable and non-discriminatory education to all, continues to marginalize many minority communities and perpetuate nationalist principles in the classroom. Discrimination based on Colour, Ethnic Origin, Language, Religion and Belief in Turkey’s Education System, a jointly published report by History Foundation (Tarih Vakfı) and Minority Rights Group International, highlights the effects of this exclusionary system on children from minority communities and their ability to secure adequate access to education.

Despite legislation passed in 2012 to support teaching of minority languages, in practice there are many obstacles due to lack of resources and limited political will. Moreover, education in their mother tongue remains out of reach for many communities. This can have lasting impacts on the learning outcomes of minority children. In addition, compulsory religious education in Sunni Islam from grade four means that some minority members, such as Alevis, are obliged to take the course. Though technically Christian and Jewish children can apply to opt out, the procedure for opting out can itself undermine their human rights. Minority communities are also frequently overlooked or misrepresented in educational materials such as textbooks and curricula, meaning that prejudices and stereotypes about their communities are being recreated among the next generation. Finally, disadvantaged communities such as Afro-Turks and Roma often struggle to secure full educational access.

This report presents an overview of the current state of Turkey’s educational system during 2014 to 2015, drawing on fieldwork by Monitoring Discrimination in Education Network, an alliance of 16 organizations working in Turkey. Besides outlining the relevant legal standards and key rights relating to education access, such as language and pluralism, it also presents a detailed overview of key areas of discrimination and ongoing inequalities faced by minority children. It ends with a series of recommendations, including legal reforms, increased resources for mother tongue learning, revised curricula and improved discrimination monitoring, to support the development of a more inclusive and socially just educational system in Turkey.

Download the report in English or Turkish.

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