Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has targeted educators in Turkey who have decided to boycott career exams that will allow them to obtain the titles of “teacher,” “expert teacher” and “head teacher” in accordance with a law passed in early 2022, referring to them as “looters” in recent remarks, local media reported on Thursday.
“Just stop this boycott. What’s this all about? Are you the architects of education or looters who wander around? We need teachers who will mingle with our children, not those who roam the streets [to stage protests],” Erdoğan said on Thursday during a speech at the appointment ceremony of 20,000 teachers at the presidential palace in Ankara’s Beştepe neighborhood.
Erdoğan’s remarks come amid protests by teachers’ unions and opposition politicians calling on the government to cancel career exams that teachers are required to take to obtain certain titles in the profession and on teachers not to take the exams as part of a boycott.
According to the Teaching Profession Law, which went into force after it was adopted by parliament in February, teachers will start out as “candidates” before subsequently obtaining the title of “teacher,” “expert teacher” or “head teacher” based on the progress of their career.
Pursuant to the law, candidate teachers who worked for at least 10 years in the profession will attend the “Expert Teaching Training Program,” apply for a written exam in order to become expert teachers and will get the expert teaching certificate if they score 70 points or higher in the exam. A similar process will also apply to those who worked as expert teachers for at least 10 years and want to receive a head teacher certificate.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who previously urged teachers to boycott the exams amid widespread criticism that teachers should obtain the titles according to the years they spent in the profession and not to the score of an exam, on Thursday slammed Erdoğan for calling teachers “looters.”
“Erdoğan, did you call teachers ‘looters’? Teachers, unite now! … Don’t take the exam. [I] will solve this problem. Not long now,” he said in a tweet, referring to the time after the 2023 elections, when he expects his party to come to power, replacing Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Erdoğan also referred to the Gezi Park protestors as looters, “çapulcu” in Turkish, during protests in 2013 that erupted over government plans to demolish Gezi Park in the Taksim neighborhood of İstanbul.
They quickly turned into mass anti-government demonstrations that were violently suppressed by the government, leading to the death of 11 protestors due to the use of disproportionate force by the police.