Turkish youths know about foreign scientists and pop stars but they are not informed when it comes to Muslim scholars and local musicians, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during an address at an education conference.
Erdoğan said a main objective of the education system should be to instill self-confidence in students and that an education system should be deemed faulty if students end up feeling alienated from their own cultural values and civilization.
“If you ask about [Albert] Einstein, everyone has a few words to say about him. But if you say Ibn Sina [Avicenna], you see most have not heard the name. We have youths who memorize names of foreign pop stars but don’t know [the Turkish-Ottoman composers] Dede Efendi or Itri, despise listening to the music of [Turkish folk music singer] Neşet Ertaş. We have youths who speak Turkish with English or French accents, but are ashamed of using the words of their ancestors,” he said at the 19th National Education Council organized by the Ministry of Education. “Unfortunately, we have youths who value the lifestyles, arts and clothing styles of foreign cultures but scorn the values of their own land.”
Erdoğan’s remarks come amid criticism that he and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government have been trying to dispense with the secular education system to create a more Islamic youth and society. Erdoğan and government officials defend the controversial education policies as necessary to fight moral decay.
“We are a nation that believes in this: Science is a lost skill of the Muslims. We retrieve it wherever we see it. But we are not going to disassociate ourselves from our essence or soul while we [learn about] science we find in America or China,” he said. “I believe we will build an education system that will educate youths who do not admire others but who will try to win admiration. … When we enlighten ourselves, you will see, we will stop following and imitating others. We will be a pioneering country that is followed by others.”
The president recently sparked controversy on a matter of science, saying that Muslims discovered America long before Christopher Columbus and, when faced with criticism, he said those who disagree with him suffer from a lack of self-esteem and that they do not believe Muslims are capable of making scientific discoveries.
In the past, Erdoğan received flak for declaring his wish to raise a pious generation and subsequent sweeping reforms in the education system have been denounced by critics as a means to achieve this goal.