Minority Education in Western Thrace
Minority Education in the Western Thrace region of Greece has accumulated for years and is under pressure from numerous and diverse problems. The status of minority education has undergone significant changes as an extension also of economic conditions and problems over time as a result of various interventions. As a result, a very complex set of legislation has emerged, which does not conform to the delicate balances established by conflicting agreements within itself. Today's warped nature of minority education transforms minority children, as well as citizens of the European Union, into inadequate and incompatible second-class citizens.
As it stands today, the minority education system instead of contributing in strengthening ties between the minority and the state, it renders relations between both more tense and results in a crisis of trust. This does not only contradict the obligations Greece has undertaken by the legal provisions it has signed, but also is in contradiction with the European Union’s existing criteria and established legislation such as directives.
Minority education’s problems have been deepening day by day and there is no tolerance for more delays. A solution must be found.
Instead of the thorny loupes of the painful experiences of the minority in this field, it is possible to look at existing agreements and the high legal and human standards applicable in Europe from an unbiased, fair, safe and luminous perspective. One should hope that the search for a future solution can be put on a more reasonable footing.
As a method in such a process, there is no doubt that the choice of criteria for ‘respectful, sincere’ dialogue will help to find solutions that are acceptable and feasible.
Legal Basis for Minority Education in Greece
It is necessary to emphasize in advance the basic documents registered below, which determine the status of the education of the Muslim Turkish minority in Thrace.
a) The Lausanne Agreement, signed in 1923 between allied states and Turkey (also between Turkey and Greece), which has generally established the status of the Minority
b) The Cultural Protocol between Turkey and Greece signed on April 20, 1951, and the Note Statement on quota teachers to be assigned to minority schools in 1952
c) 1968 Turkey-Greece Cultural Commission and Ankara and Athens meetings Protocol
Furthermore, in accordance with Article 45 of the Treaty of Lausanne, Article 40 explicitly stipulates the following: ‘Members of the minority shall enjoy the same treatment and security in law and in fact as other citizens’.
Moreover, according Article 37 of the Treaty, Turkey and Greece shall not reverse the provisions specified in Articles 38 to 44 of the Treaty, in the form of the original law, and that no laws, any order and any formal treatment are contrary to these provisions.
In addition, it is worth mentioning Article 28 of the Greek Constitution which is in force since 1975:
‘The generally recognised rules of international law, as well as international conventions as of the time they are ratified by statute and become operative according to their respective conditions, shall be an integral part of domestic Greek law and shall prevail over any contrary provision of the law. the rules of international law and of international conventions shall be applicable to aliens only under the condition of reciprocity’.
As of 2002, the number of minority primary schools in the region, Greek and Turkish, applied curriculum syllabus in two languages, within the framework of the law and legal arrangements of the Treaty of Lausanne, is 231. It is estimated that the number of students attending a school is over 8,000. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the total number of students who attend two minority secondary schools and high schools in Xanthi and Komotini is close to 9,000.
Around 1,000 students graduate from their six-year primary schools each year, 200 of them continue to minority secondary schools and high schools As a result of the scarce number of schools and the lower level of education in one language, they are obliged to enrol in other schools that provide Greek education.
Minority schools have serious problems of books, teachers, buildings and course studies. After 1964, many laws and provisions went in direct contradiction with international provisions regarding minority education and and some basic Greek laws, including legal provisions from the time of the monarchy and presidential agreements. Although a regime based on democratic principles was returned after the overthrow of the Junta, the negativity about minority education unfortunately could not be corrected. In fact, some of these disorders have been reflected in the decisions of governments who came after the Junta administration, and the legislation that came out of time have caused great damage to the autonomous structure of minority education. Uncertainty continue on many issues today and show an unviable view.
As a result of lack of dialogue and unconscious omissions, minority primary schools have been deprived of sufficient and modern textbooks that have been used in basic education for a very long time. This has led to the decrease in the quality and level of minority education over time. Recently, the positive development recorded in Greece-Turkey relations was reflected in this area, and new Turkish primary school books were adopted as a result of the ongoing constructive approach between the authorities of the two countries. As such, new textbooks were sent to schools in the region from 2000. Now, minority teachers need to continue their complementing professional training programs in order to implement these books efficiently.
Currently, minority secondary schools and high schools are also faced with the problem of inadequate and outdated textbooks. Intergovernmental talks on approval and printing of new textbooks have not yet been concluded. As in primary schools, it was hoped that the textbooks to be taught in secondary and high schools would be prepared with the agreement of the relevant authorities of the two countries and brought to Komotini and Xanthi Minority Secondary Schools and High Schools.
The legal provisions included within the framework of Article 40 of the Treaty of Lausanne grants the right to open, manage and supervise schools and education institutions for the minority. It is natural that the teachers who will apply the Greek curriculum in minority schools are appointed by the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs. The teachers who will apply the Turkish curriculum should be assigned by the actual minority, in other words, in line with the preferences and approvals of the school councillors and their parents. However, the laws and regulations in effect in this field greatly restrict the right of the minority to choose and assign teachers. It was given to the Secretary General of the Region, and the ‘right of appreciation and choice’ of the parents of the schoolchildren, in other words, the parents of the students in this field were restricted by the directives and stipulated on the paper but not applied comprehensively. Applications made by minority teachers to be appointed within the framework of the competence of the committees are not accepted. The minority tries to maintain the hope of finding a fair and permanent solution to this problem within the legal order of Greece.
Teacher Training Scheme
The biggest issue remains about minority teachers. The Junta Administration introduced an organ under the name of the Academy of Private Pedagogy in 1968 in order to eliminate the education regime under the guarantee of the Treaty of Lausanne. S Minority members enrolled in this school by selective methods are appointed to minority schools to undergo a special education program within this institution. Language knowledge and their pedagogical training of this small number remains far behind what minority teacher receive as a teacher training in Turkey. This has further eroded confidence between the general public and the state, decreased the quality of education given in the schools and further led to tension and discomfort with the minority, thus damaging social peace.
S.Ö.P.A graduates who have been appointed in the schools for the last 30 years and who are in their hundreds today have been without an alternative under the current education system and confronted in finishing their training in Turkey. Some of the minority teachers who returned to Greece were not directed to minority schools, and some of them ended their duties on unreasonable grounds.
Finally, if they are not civil servants and do not benefit from existing public insurance and social security programs, and in the occasion that there is a 60-year threshold of service for teachers who received their formation in Turkey, this has effectively pushed this professional group outside of the educational regime.
The teacher candidates who were accepted to S.Ö.P.A. were chosen among the graduates of two madrasas where they received specific education with a focus on religion. These madrasas, who have no parallels with the central education schools within Greece's national education system, guarantees training and education which is grossly inadequate for teachers who are later assigned at minority primary schools.
If one is to find long lasting solutions to the enduring issues of minority education in 21st century EU member Greece, the political authorities should embark on a radical change of mindset notably with respect to Salonica Special Pedagogic Academy. In determining the teacher training mechanism that can be substituted for the Turkish curriculum of minority education in the place of S.Ö.P.A., the government is expected to take into account the negative experiences that have been experienced so far and to listen to the views and expectations of the minority; also, this needs further planning, dialogue and cooperation.
Teacher Candidates Studying Abroad
Since the end of the 1960s, it has been prevented from serving in minority schools for minority members who have completed their training abroad (in Turkey). As a result, a number of qualified personnel have been lost, and in addition, competent local education staff who received a formation in Turkey, which apply the Turkish curriculum of minority education, have been aged over time. Lately, we have seen a softening of the approach of the government with respect to low secondary schools and high schools and thus, the appointments of 11 young students with Turkish formations have been approved in the last three years. Nonetheless, it is of utmost importance to stress that there is no flexibility regarding the 231 minority primary schools which is in dire need of hundreds of teachers. Given the time it takes to raise the next generation of teachers, it is imperative to facilitate the appointments of new teachers and to speed up the diploma equivalence within the framework of the DIKATSA process with the support of school councillors. Between 1997 and 2000, a project supported by the European Union was implemented in order to raise the standards of minority education by collaborating with some universities of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs. It has been announced that a similar project will be implemented between 2002 and 2004. Professors of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens have established dialogue with minority associations and organizations on this project. The project aims to strengthen Greek language teaching in minority schools, which envisages strengthening Greek language teaching and increasing and reaching the national standards by reinforcing also other courses given in the Greek language. Within the framework of this project, it is reported that the reinforcement of Turkish language courses can be organized for teachers of the minority, depending on the demands from some minority institutions. There is no doubt or hesitation that minority children should be able to grow up as law-abiding and productive citizens in order to adapt adequately to society, as well as to learn the official language Greek well. In fact, it is well known that some of the few members of the area are aware of the inadequacy in this field and that some organize Greek language courses in exchange for a fee. Moreover, the point that should be noted here is that while preparing comprehensive projects that may affect the curriculum of minority education, the training system is being treated in accordance with the ground principles and delicate balances, in full transparency and it is of utmost importance to raise the standards in the teaching of both Greek and Turkish which should be treated on an equal basis. The minority is ready to contribute to the work to be carried out with this understanding.
The lack of kindergartens, which is the basis of education, is felt seriously in our society. The education of kids from the smallest age within the control of competent teachers is a need which cannot be taken for granted. The necessity to open more kindergartens is even more felt as the number of working women increases rapidly. Like other communities in Greece, one should not doubt about the willingness of the Turkish community in Western Thrace to reach 21st century European and modern standards with respect to higher education and science. In this context, the opening of kindergartens in the places where the Turkish minority is located is a goal for the community in respect with the main criteria and standards in that respect. In other words, it may be possible and beneficial for pre-school childcare and education institutions to become part of the social and cultural life of the minority, and to expand the minority education system to include these institutions. The method and framework to be followed in this regard must be defined in a manner that is compatible with the visions and demands of the minority, and the application must be started with caution after the necessary preparations are made in the inclusion of a specific plan and calendar. Furthermore, it is of significant importance the education and services given in such kindergartens is in accordance with the status of the minority and in both Turkish and Greek languages, based on an bilateral agreement between Turkey and Greece and in accordance with the relevant legal provisions, agreements and protocols and as also stipulated within the framework of the Treaty of Lausanne. Currently, the number of teachers from the minority working in kindergartens is insufficient. Therefore, it would be useful for a project to be spelled out which would enhance the competences and qualifications of teachers working in such schools and the realist approach would be for villages and areas with qualified teachers to co-operate with local authorities in that respect.
a) Dialogue should be started between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Greece and Turkey and the Ministries responsible for National Education and Religious Affairs in order to improve the conditions and the survival of minority education.
b) A study should be conducted with the purpose of identifying the teachers who are currently unemployed but available and with a suitable age within the minority in the area and to facilitate their assignment to the schools
c) The number of Turkish quota teachers serving in Greece should be increased to 36 again as in the 1952 agreement, allowing these teachers to be appointed in a balanced manner in schools in the region.
d) A study should be launched with the purpose of expanding the practice of 9 years of mandatory primary education to include Minority primary schools.
e) Physical infrastructure, training tools and staff of secondary schools and high schools in Komotini and Xanthi should be developed.
f) The opening of 4 new high schools, 1 art high school and a girls' high school, which will provide education in two languages, should be supported by state facilities and these institutions should be safeguarded.
g) Xanthi Minority Secondary School and High School should open a dormitory for students.
The issues mentioned in this report summarized the arrangements and requirements that are required to carry out minority education in Western Thrace in accordance with the needs and conditions of the time and conditions and it reflects the demands and expectations of the minority first. The aim of preparing this report is to contribute to a realistic and structural understanding of this issue and within the framework of the legal provisions aforementioned for the minority to be granted adequate education for its youth. These perspectives will help educate new generations that are healthy and forward looking by correctly identifying and addressing the past faulty practices, eliminating the problems and tensions caused from the current framework. We sincerely believe that we can help in this aim.
Western Thrace Turkish Teachers Union (BTTÖB)
Cahit ALI OSMAN
Western Thrace Minority University Graduates Association (WTMUGA)
Minority Problem - Minority Education - Parallel Lives
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.
The Minority education has been the primer concern of the anti-Minority Policy, it has moved parallel to the general problems of the minority, and it has become a micrography of the general situation that the Minority has pushed to.
To identify it shortly we have to mention that it has become "a mechanism of producing illiteracy" because the level of it has been reduced that much , with its teacher, teaching material, books, programs problems. The Minority education with the produced barriers that is facing is not attracting students anymore. It is expelling the students.
Thus it happens this way. The minority is aware of the importance of keeping alive its school and its education. Although the efforts of the Minority to keep open its school, it leaves the school time by time. Thousands of minority primary and secondary school students are sent to schools at Turkey by their fathers. And the trends of the recent years show that the student leave the trans-cultural schools and they go to state schools.
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%. There are only 2 high schools of minority and they don't allow the total number of the students in these schools to exceed 400 and the number of the graduates to be more than 30-40 graduates per year. This barrier may seem unbelievable but it is true. For example one measure is taken with this aim is to not allow the number of the newcomers to exceed 90-100 students each year. To secure this number they have putted an examination at minority secondary schools that is the only of its type around Greece. This special exam was removed the last years and a new selection process of lottery has introduced.
The administration, preserves the minority education in a shape that it has pushed the minority to become: "A living morgue".