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Impossibilities of education caused by the state in Western Thrace02 September 2018

The main problems in the field of education are usually linked with the denial of the ethnic identity. The Turkish curriculum is tried to be removed systematically by the state.

The Minority education of primary and secondary level, was a wonderful example case of a minority education, with its status determined from the Treaty of Lausane 1923, special conventions and agreements between Greece and Turkey, with a semi-autonomous, semi-private, interstate, bilingual (Turkish and Greek), trans-cultural character. With the measures that succeeding governments took it has become from an example that should be copied to an example that it should be avoided.

An example of the problems linked with the denial of the ethnic identity is the lack of bilingual kindergartens. The bilingual criteria in kindergartens have main importance in social and cultural harmony with their own society and the Greek society. When there is a lack of bilingualism it is usually observed that the children suffer from adaptation problems with the Greek society as they meet for the first time with the Greek language and face with a cultural shock. When it is taken into consideration that Kindergartens are part of the compulsory education for the minority in Greece, the demand of opening bilingual kindergartens is not fulfilled yet.

International experts on pre-school education highlight the importance of using native language in kindergartens and its positive psychological and educational impacts on children. By the way, the pre-school education has become compulsory in Greece in 2007, all students with different linguistic, religious and cultural background across the country as well as the members of the Turkish Minority have become obliged to follow the compulsory pre-school education which is only in Greek.

Authorities do not let the Minority to establish bilingual pre-schools. A Minority NGO called PEKEM (Western Thrace Culture and Education Foundation) had applied to the Hellenic autorities some years ago to open Minority secondary-high schools in the Minority-intensive areas such as Filira, Sappes, Arriana. PEKEM has also made an application to the Ministry of Education in 2011 to get licence for a Minority secondary-high school in Rodopi and a private kindergarten in Xanthi. PEKEM, after four years, is still awaiting the response.

The closing and merging minority primary schools are another in the part of education. There are around 350 primary Minority schools and at the beginning of the 1970'ies, the number of the students was around 16 thousands and today it has fallen to 8 thousands, it has fallen almost 50%. According to a new legislation put in effect in 2011 primary schools are closing down or merging every year with an excuse that the primary schools have a lack of students. However, there is a paradox that the same legislation does not concern the Greek primary schools.

Another sad point is that there are only two minority high schools in Komotini (Gümülcine) and Xanthi (İskeçe) which contain about 1400 students. It is obvious that only two minority high schools are insufficient for students who live in a 150.000 populated society. The promise of the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on solving this problem ended with a disappointment as there were only opened 3 more classrooms in the Minority High School of Xanthi.

One of the most important issues is the lack of qualified teachers. Before 2002 it there was teachers assigned by Turkey according to an agreement which was also valid for the Greek Minority in Istanbul. After that time on, assigning teachers by Turkey was forbidden.

The last problem is about the school books. The school books are not updated in the minority high schools, therefore it makes impossible the adaptation to the era. The problem of the school books is not only that they are not updated, but there are also same censored words. For example, some provinces in Turkey like Istanbul, Ankara, and İzmir are replaced with Athens, Thessaloniki, and Kavala.

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