Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Council of State and Coefficient Reform

The 8th Council Chamber of State has again ruled against reform that would make it easier for graduates from imam-hatip schools to enter universities. These schools are theological, but also have curriculum equivalent to that at Turkish public schools.

Following the infamous Feb. 28 process, which is considered by many Turkey's "postmodern coup," measures were put in place to curb the influence of imam-hatip, including the now contested the lower coefficient applied to the scores imam-hatip students receive on the Student Selection Examination (ÖSS). The lower coefficient places these students in the same field as those graduating from vocational schools, significantly reducing their chances of entering public universities.

In July, the Higher Education Council (YÖK) eliminated the lower co-efficients altogether. However, in December, the 8th Chamber of the Council of State reversed the YÖK policy change following an application from the Istanbul Bar Association. YÖK then moved to reduce the difference in the coefficients, the change again affecting both imam-hatip and vocational students. It is this most recent reform that the Council annulled.

Some Turks see the coefficient system as inherently unjust, discriminating against students who receive the same education yet are treated differents in the university admissions process (for example, see news coverage from Today's Zaman and this column from Fatma Sisli Zibak.) Yet, other Turks fear overhauling the coefficient system would result in a flood of religiously-oriented imam-hatip students entering university, and thus the state establishment.

For more on mam-hatip schools, see TESEV's 2004 report, "Imam Hatip Liseleri: Efsaneler ve Gercekler" (Imam Hatip Schools: Myths and Realities). Some of the report is in English, and gives a history of imam-hatip schools, as well as explains their popularity, explores attitudes of their students, and discusses their relationship with public universities.

UPDATE I (2/20) -- A student from Konya has applied to the European Court of Human Rights. The ECHR has affirmed Turkey's headscarf ban, though this is a different issue entirely. Not to politicize th ECHR, but a ruling in favor of the student and against the coefficient system here could help the image of the Court and Europeaniation in the eyes of religious Muslims who used to be more inclined to see Europeanization as a means to protect "their" rights against a "secular" state. As always, more details on the boy's human rights complaint and the legal grounds for bringing it here are appreciated.

1 comment:

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Another oddity is that nobody is talking about grandfathering students who've already chosen their track based on the on the old order. This is amazing given that the entrance exam people are talking about possible delays based on that observation. That is, they argue that if the rules change after the candidates commit to taking the exam that'd be grounds for lawsuits. The same argument should apply to choice of high schools and tracks within the same high school.

I find this interesting because due process, rule of law and various high-sounding notions about good governance and fairness are constantly appealed to in rhetoric. One thing that was wrong with the original coefficient decision was that it changed the rules for people who had already chosen their schools counting on the old rules. The same is being attempted now.