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6.9 Children using other languages

In today’s world, education in the mother tongue is regarded not only as beneficial but as a fundamental right. UNESCO, for example, takes the view that “Mother tongue instruction is essential for initial instruction and literacy and should be extended to as late a stage in education as possible” (Education in a Multilingual World, 2003). In its most recent Concluding Observations, in June 2012, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about the “unavailability of education in languages other than Turkish, except for languages of recognized minorities, presenting educational disadvantages to children of non- recognized minorities whose mother tongue is not Turkish” and recommended that the government “consider means of providing education in languages other than Turkish, particularly in primary school in areas where other languages, in addition to Turkish, are widely spoken.” 

Despite a tendency to lift some of the restrictions concerning the use of native languages in broadcasting and other areas, no policy initiative has yet been taken in the area of education. Education in these languages remains unavailable even at preschool level. Arrangements would have to be made to train teachers and produce educational materials, and account would have to be taken of the variety of languages used by local populations and the need for all citizens to be able to use the majority language Turkish. The Education Reform Initiative (ERG), an NGO specialising in education policy, has sought to unlock debate on mother-tongue education by reference to the concept, also employed by UNESCO, of multilingual education (Dr Müge Ayan Ceyhan & Dilara Koçbaş: Çiftdillilik ve Eğitim [Multilingualism and Education], 2009 - http://erg.sabanciuniv.edu/sites/erg.sabanciuniv.edu/files/ciftdillilik.22.12.10.pdf).

In a separate development, preparations are under way for the introduction of Kurdish language classes as an optional course during the second phase of primary education (grades 5-8), depending on demand and availability of teachers. This may help to avail children of their rights to enjoy their own culture and use their own language mentioned in Article 30 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Sources of information on education

There is a large body of information, statistics, research, analysis and debate which can be used to inform policies and assess progress in achieving the right of children to education. The Ministry of National Education publishes annual statistics covering enrolment ratios and numbers of students, teachers and classrooms disaggregated by province, age group, gender, level of education and type of school (http://sgb.meb.gov.tr/istatistik/). The Ministry also collects detailed information through the electronic e-school database (although question marks have been raised about the comprehensiveness and quality of this data), some of which may be shared with researchers. Among international organisations, the World Bank, UNICEF, UNESCO, the OECD and the Council of Europe take a close interest in various aspects of children’s education in Turkey, conduct research and make available international comparisons. Turkey has participated in international initiatives such as the PISA tests and the UNICEF/UNESCO Out Of School Children Initiative. The Education Research Initiative (ERG), an education policy think-tank based at Sabanci University in Istanbul, is a rich source of informed analysis and commentary. In addition to its wide-ranging annual Education Monitoring Report, the ERG has in recent years published studies and papers on almost every topical issue including equity in education, vocational and technical education strategy, mainstreaming/inclusive education, religious education and multilingual education. Several of the ERG publications have been consulted during the preparation of this Situation Analysis. Better use could arguably be made of the wealth of data and studies in the education sector if there were a culture of dissemination, informed public discussion and meaningful policy consultation. One lacuna is the absence of data concerning the participation and performance in education of girls and boys from specific social backgrounds such as Kurdish and Arabic-speakers, the Roma, children living in institutions, children from low-income families, working children and migrants.



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