Evolution will no longer be taught in Turkish schools, a senior education official has said, in a move likely to raise the ire of the country’s secular opposition.
Alpaslan Durmuş, who chairs the board of education, said evolution was debatable, controversial and too complicated for students.
“We believe that these subjects are beyond their [students] comprehension,” said Durmuş in a video published on the education ministry’s website.
Durmuş said a chapter on evolution was being removed from ninth grade biology course books, and the subject postponed to the undergraduate period. Another change to the curriculum may reduce the amount of time that students spend studying the legacy of secularism.
Critics of the government believe public life is being increasingly stripped of the secular traditions instilled by the nation’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
The secular opposition has long argued that the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is pursuing a covert Islamist agenda contrary to the republic’s founding values. Education is a particularly contentious avenue, because of its potential in shaping future generations. Small-scale protests by parents in local schools have opposed the way religion is taught.
There is little acceptance of evolution as a concept among mainstream Muslim clerics in the Middle East, who believe it contradicts the story of creation in scripture, in which God breathed life into the first man, Adam, after shaping him from clay. Still, evolution is briefly taught in many high school biology courses in the region.
The final changes to the curriculum are likely to be announced next week after the Muslim Eid or Bayram festival at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The draft changes had been put forth for public consultation at the beginning of the year.