Students choosing religious high schools offered scholarships

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (C) attends a graduation ceremony of Imam-Hatip Graduates and Members Association (ONDER) at the Recep Tayyip Erdogan stadium in Istanbul, Turkey on May 23, 2017. Berk Ozkan / Anadolu Agency

Students who achieve a designated score in the secondary education examination are offered a scholarship if they choose to study at religious imam-hatip schools, the Birgün daily reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, the Turkish government is trying to increase the prestige of the schools by attracting smarter students since the levels of achievement were proven to be low in the last university entrance examinations.

It was earlier reported that an imam-hatip school in İzmir offered a TL 250 per month scholarship to all students enrolling there.

Other imam-hatip schools in İstanbul recently announced in their brochures that students with a designated score will receive scholarships in the event they opt for these schools. The source of the scholarships was not revealed.

Amid ongoing debates about the Turkish military and police force falling under the control of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, an imam-hatip, or religious high school, promised its graduates preference in enrollment at military and police academies in June.

“[Graduates] will have privileges in registering at military high schools and police academies,” said a handout from the Hoca Ahmet Yesevi Anadolu Imam-Hatip High School in the western province of İzmir.

Offering scholarships to students for choosing religious high schools, which are also provided with services such as free meals and free school buses, has been criticized by several trade union members who said this was serving President Tayyip Erdoğan’s goal of “raising a religious generation” and violating the principle of equal opportunity.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Erdoğan have been criticized for trying to Islamicize the country through reforms in education by converting secular schools into religious imam-hatip high schools.

President Erdoğan, who is also an imam-hatip graduate, and his AKP have been trying to increase the number of imam-hatip schools, which fell due to state policies following a postmodern coup on Feb. 28, 1997. According to statistics released by the Education Union (EğitimSen), the number of imam-hatip schools rose to 1,961 in 2015 from 450 in 2002 when Erdoğan’s AKP came to power.

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