Türkiye’s new education model: Will religious education surpass science?

A recent news story shocked us. It was claimed that with the approval of the “Century of Turkey Education Model” by the Ministry of National Education, mathematics became an elective course in the new curriculum.Will the sciene education surpass scientific education? The title actually reflects a misleading proposition. Both are needed; one is not an alternative to the other. The real question should be about the appropriate dosage within the education curriculum: how much mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and economics, which form the foundation of science and technology, should be taught to our children and young people, and how much religious education and sociology, which form the basis of spirituality, should be provided.Of course, the correct dosage of history, geography, art, sports, culture, and ecology cannot be neglected either. As in every period of history, today, the right and wrong, information and disinformation, religion and science are constantly being mixed. The losers are the young generations and the segments of society that live in tension and are divided into camps.New education model: Conscious formatting?A recent news story shocked us. It was claimed that with the approval of the “Century of Turkey Education Model” by the Ministry of National Education, mathematics became an elective course in the new curriculum. Previously, it was mentioned that the weight of religious education would increase at the expense of the current curriculum. When these two propositions are considered together, not only did it create confusion, but it also raised the question: “Are these the signs of a systematic and conscious effort to format society and the minds of future generations towards a certain goal?”In a statement from the Presidential Communications Directorate, which denied the news published in the media, it was said, “With this model, mathematics skills are determined by considering the skills that can be modeled with the components of the process covering primary, secondary, and high school levels. Do not pay attention to unfounded claims.” But believe me, despite reading this statement several times, I still couldn’t fully understand what it meant.Where will the emphasis be?The education that shapes the future of a country should not be played with like a blackboard for writing and erasing. During the 22-year rule of the AKP, the ministers of education, who no longer had a national character, were the ones who changed the most and made the most changes. Each brought so-called innovations and changes according to their own views, but in reality, they caused destruction and turned everything upside down. Students, teachers, and parents were turned into scapegoats and found themselves in a state of confusion.While the limits in science and technology education are being narrowed and the passing thresholds are being lowered, the latest “Century of Turkey Education Model” announced by the Ministry of National Education on April 26 indicated that religious courses would have more weight in the new curriculum across all levels of education. I do not know whether the news is correct or disinformation. Nonetheless, let me try to explain the connection between science, education, and religion, so that those who decide on the weight of the curriculum can continue to do what they know best.Politicization of religionOf course, learning religion, but learning it correctly, and ensuring that the masks of exploiters are removed to reveal their true selves, requires religious education. However, it is essential to provide religious education that prevents exploitation, misinterpretation, and religious abuse, addressing the tension that has appeared to be a contradiction between religion and science in the West and in our region for centuries.Allowing religious teachers and imams to politicize reduces the unique weight of religion in the eyes of genuine believers and secular people.Is mathematics a religion?Some people actually see mathematics as the most widespread religion in the world. It has a dogmatic structure, with clear laws, but this dogmatism is not closed to questioning. It is universal, like a religion. Moreover, it is older than all religions. According to this belief, the purpose of human existence is related to discovering the laws (or verses) of mathematics.These laws already exist in nature. The only way to be a “virtuous person” is to be able to discover these laws. A faithful person is one who seeks and tries to discover the laws.The holy book of this belief has no end and no beginning. It will never have a point in history where it ceases to exist. People may fight each other, use the laws of mathematics for ballistic missiles, and develop anti-missile technology using these laws to defend against ballistic missiles.The religion of mathematics avoids statements like “Jesus walked on water,” but with its laws, you draw the ship’s skeleton and produce the ship with the necessary materials, allowing it to float on water.It has no imposition. The religion of mathematics does not grant anyone the authority or duty to spread itself; it needs no promotion. It is so confident that it knows people will eventually turn to it, as they have to, so it does not force anyone. It spreads on its own, needing no wars or clergy to propagate.Memorization in religious educationMathematics and other scientific disciplines affect our lives in almost every area. Today, they extend beyond the boundaries of schools and classrooms, becoming significant inputs in the Knowledge Economy. In this context, in many countries, mathematics, science, innovation, technology, economy, and art are considered within the framework of an engineering project, referred to as the “new mathematics.”Instead of making children and young people memorize hundreds of problems like parrots and then asking for them back in exams, science teachers should focus on developing skills such as “observation,” “association,” “drawing conclusions,” and “accessing information,” which can help them admire the order of nature.Similarly, the situation is more serious in religious classes where memorization is believed to be the only mandatory teaching method. Religious books, which symbolize “good deeds” revealed by the Creator in symbolic language, should not be memorized.Teaching religion without memorization, by understanding it, may be more challenging. However, only in this way can well-educated religious figures demonstrate good morals to society. Memorization in science education only leads to a lack of understanding of physical world realities. In religious education, memorization lays the groundwork for more serious mistakes. It results in not understanding the Creator’s intentions, not questioning why people are born, and not thinking about what is expected of them.Broad societal consensusTherefore, when playing with the education system, it is crucial to carefully consider the balance between science and religion, established through centuries of struggle worldwide, and not to tamper with it arbitrarily without broad societal consensus. Otherwise, all balances will be disrupted, a different generation not in harmony with the world will be raised, the approach of nas (religious rulings) rather than science will come to the forefront in the economy, and we will be doomed to lag behind in the league of science and technology.

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