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Quatre enseignements différents

Religious instruction is given in four ways in four different instances - in the Imam Hatip schools (public schools for training imams and preachers), during religious education classes in public secondary schools, in quranic schools (Kuran Kursları, extracurricular classes in private schools with State accreditation), and in faculties of theology (universities).

After the Second World War, with the election of a multi-party democracy and under the pressure of public opinion, the first schools for imams and preachers were opened in 1948. With "professional" and "cultural" subjects as part of the curriculum, education in these schools was to last 7 years (3 years of junior high and 4 years of senior high school).
In addition to classes on the Qur’an, Arabic language, religious interpretation, the hadiths, history of Islam etc., these schools also offer the traditional classes. The standard High School Arts curriculum is followed in the senior years. This explains the tendency students from these schools have for literary studies. Moreover, besides Arabic, European language classes were also put in place. Sequel to this, others imam and preacher schools were opened where the language of instruction was English or German.
In the minds of the founders of these schools, students graduating from these professional schools were to form the bulk of government employed clerics (including imams, preachers and teachers in quranic schools) and would, of course, be controlled by the State. However things did not turn out as expected and the graduates chose other sectors of social and professional life, thereby forming a corps of well-read individuals who are committed to Muslim values in every sector of the Turkish society – businessmen, politicians, teachers, doctors, etc. In the same way, they constitute a voting base for Islamic-oriented parties, in particular the groups arising from the Millî Görüş movement.
This "professional deviation" trend has now been confirmed by statistics. To the extent that being the only structures that offer this hybrid form of education, these schools have a growing success and have consequently become an important political factor.

The second type of religious instruction in Turkey is delivered in the public secondary schools as a subject known as "religious culture and moral knowledge".
From the end of the Second World War (though after the death of Mustafa Kemal), the Republican Government was obliged to inject a dose of Muslim education into primary schools in order to counter the communist movements. These optional classes, given outside school hours, were radically changed in 1950 when the Democrats, with the help of traditionalist forces, came to power. Religious education then became part of the school curriculum. In 1956, these same subjects were introduced in the colleges and in 1976, all the forms in secondary school began to receive this class, still optional, for one hour a week.
With the 1982 Constitution which followed the 1980 military coup, religious education became compulsory from the fourth to the final year of secondary school. Only members of the three minority religion – i.e. the Greeks, Armenians and the Jews - were exempted from these classes. Alevis students on the other hand were required to take these religious classes in Sunni Islam. These classes were an introduction to Sunni and secular Islam, where the Turco-Islamic synthesis forged during the political lull of 1980 – 1983 played a predominant role.

The Kuran Kursları (Qur’anic schools) are private establishments which provide focused extracurricular teaching alongside the normal educational system. At the end of the week, especially, these schools are filled with school children of all ages. The Kuran Kurslari are often unofficially affiliated to Islamic movements and they constitute the basic structure for initiation in Muslim values.

The programme at the faculty of theology at the University of Istanbul was to closely modelled on the programme of the former theology faculty of Dârü’l Fünun, precursor of the University of Istanbul. Some new programmes were quickly prepared, taking into account modern European programmes in theology, in particular that of the Catholic Institute in Paris. In the area of the social sciences, the faculty also benefitted from the contributions of academic staff that were educated in Europe. Starting from this time, several significant works in the area of social sciences have been carried out. Nevertheless, the establishment was closed in 1930.
In 1949, a new theology faculty attached to the University of Ankara was opened. In this faculty, the programme used at the theology faculty of the University of Istanbul was expanded by incorporating classes on comparative history of religion, philosophy and theology. This faculty only accepts students from public schools. A Higher Institute of Islam was created in 1959 in Istanbul for the graduates of the schools of imams and preachers. In this Institute, emphasis is placed on the foundation of the Muslim faith. Once more, the Catholic Institute of Paris served as a model in preparing the programme of the Turkish institute. Following public enthusiasm for this Institute, seven others were opened within the span of some years. Thereafter, a faculty of Islamic Sciences was attached to the University of Erzurum.
In 1982 during the higher education reform, all the establishments were grouped together under universities. The city institutes were all thereby converted into faculties of theology and were attached to universities in the cities where they were found. Today, a modern teaching programme, comparable to the ones found in theology faculties of the West, is delivered in twenty-one faculties of theology in Turkey.
Resulting from the changes over different periods, these faculties today have three sections. Under the section "Basic Islamic Sciences" are the following departments – Religious interpretation, Hadiths, the Word, Canonical law, Mysticism, Arabic language and literature. Under the section "Religious sciences and Philosophy" are Muslim philosophy, Religious philosophy, History of philosophy, Logic, Religious instruction, Religious psychology, Religious sociology and History of religions. These subjects are taught in a modern manner using comparative methods. For the section "History and Arts of Islam", the classes centre on the history of Islam and Muslim civilisation.
Over the last few years, another section on "Religious and moral education" has been added to the programme for the purpose of training primary school teachers.
These programmes also include masters and doctoral degree levels, to train students for the academic careers.

D 8 octobre 2012    ASamim Akgönül

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