The plan has only been presented this week, but when you say 4x4x4 these days in Turkey, everybody knows what it’s about: a new education law drafted by the AKP government.
The idea is to increase compulsory education from eight years to twelve years. Nothing wrong with that, but there is something wrong with the way the AKP wants to do it. They want to create three blocks of four years: two blocks of four years for primary education (one from age 7 to 11, one from 11 to 15), and one block of four years for secondary education. Officially, there can be no break between the first and second block, but there are vague exceptions, and it will also be possible for kids to become apprentices after the first block, or to learn from home.
In practice, this means that girls will have a shorter school career. Now, compulsory education lasts eight years, starting at age 7. The AKP has managed to increase the number of girls enrolling in school, but not necessarily the number of girls graduating from primary education: there are many drop-outs. Girls are needed at home, or there is not enough money to send them to school, or they need to contribute to the family income. Or it’s about time they got married, or at least prepared for it.
What will the effect be of a new school system that makes it very easy to stop sending your girl to school after she has completed the first block, at age 11? It gives parents a logical moment to reconsider their choice of sending their daughters to school or not. When their daughters are eleven years old, they will have to choose whether or not to enrol them in the second block. In the current system, there is no such opportunity before the eight years of compulsory education are finished. Result: girls will drop out earlier.
Some people call the draft law the ‘Come on girls, be a bride!’ law. It’s a variation on the government slogan used for some time now: ‘Come on girls, let’s go to school!’. The new plan totally undermines all the efforts made to enroll more girls in school. The next step should be an effort to keep girls in school, encourage them to do well, convince their families of the benefits of education, convince the families of the negative effects of early marriage and early motherhood. The AKP seems to skip all that by introducing this plan.
Not only women’s organisations, but also the biggest and most powerful businessmen’s organisation TÜSIAD has called on the government to withdraw the plan. I sincerely hope the AKP for once will listen to its critics. And I hope it gives them a signal: the effect of laws on girls and women must always be considered. I am left wondering. Does the AKP aim at girls aged eleven leaving school, do they just don’t care, or do they totally not consider the effects laws have on girls?