Turkey’s schools are to stop teaching evolution to students and the subject will not be broached until young people attend college, according to a draft of the country’s new curriculum.
The head of the curriculum board at Turkey’s Education Ministry, Alpaslan Durmus, said at a seminar on Tuesday that evolution was one of the “controversial subjects” that had been excluded “for students at an age unable yet to understand the issues’ scientific background,” Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Durmus said that the “Origin of Life and Evolution” section previously on the curriculum “would be delayed until undergraduate study” and would be removed from ninth-grade biology textbooks.
The new curriculum may also reduce the amount of time spent studying secularism and the founding father of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The finalized version of the curriculum will not be published until after the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which starts in Turkey on Saturday evening and ends on Tuesday evening.
Critics have accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of attempting to impose an increasingly Islamist and authoritarian system of governance in Turkey, a country of 79 million people that is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim but was founded on secular traditions.
Education has been one battleground between the president and his opponents: Erdogan has spoken of using the education system to raise “pious generations” and enrolment in imam-hatip schools—which were traditionally training grounds for imams but now teach the national curriculum in addition to religious studies—has increased massively under Erdogan’s AKP government, Politico reported.
The Turkish government has also added a class on the 2016 anti-government coup—in which a faction of the Turkish military launched a failed bid to take power—in what critics say is a bid to present a nationalist, pro-Erdogan version of events. Turkey has launched a merciless crackdown on opposition in the wake of the coup, arresting or dismissing tens of thousands of people from public services including teaching, the military and judiciary.
Evolutionary theory is contentious in some majority-Muslim countries, where creationism—a belief that a divine being created human beings as they exist in their current state—holds sway.
A 2011 survey of 23 countries found that Saudi Arabia, a conservative Islamic kingdom, led the way in terms of creationism, with 75 percent of respondents saying they did not believe in evolution. Turkey was second, with 60 percent of respondents saying they were creationists.
But creationism is also a widely-held belief in some Western or traditionally Christian countries, including the United States. A 2014 poll found that 42 percent of Americans believed that God created humans in their present form around 10,000 years ago.