The Religious Education in Turkey Project

As the Association of Science, Culture, and Education, İLKE is closely following the changes and transformations occurring in the society where we live; we act with the responsibility of proposing new policies about the course of Turkey and the world by analyzing the effects, possibilities, and opportunities of these changes and transformations. Based on this, the issue of education, which significantly impacts the social structure in Turkey, is one of the topics that need to have serious analyses and studies made regarding religious education, which has a sensitive position within this issue. Determining how to take a photograph of the observations that will be done in approximately quarter-century intervals, which is when the big debates have occupied the agenda, will be a meaningful activity for Turkey, particularly on the topic of separating religious areas from non-religious areas. The inability of the rapid changes and transformations experienced in Turkey in the field of religious education to reveal a heartwarming picture in terms of the quality and quantity of the individuals and institutions/organizations servicing this field require a study analyzing the processes and causes. Such a study would allow the actors in the current field of religious education, who in a sense are undertaking the spiritual guidance of society, and the media in this field to provide qualified service by being aware of the changes and transformations that are occurring. For this purpose, we as the İLKE Association have published the research report Türkiye’de Din Eğitiminin Dönüşümü 1997-2012 (TÜDED [The Transformation of Religious Education in Turkey: 1997-2012]).

Through the study, which examines the changes and transformations in religious education in Turkey over the past 15 years through various dimensions, analyses have been done related to the field of religious education in academies; the policies of formal religious education institutions, The Ministry of Religious Affairs, and civil religious-education institutions; the transformations in the services they offer, and future trends. Suggestions for how to develop these studies have been included.

While doing the macro-analyses with the TÜDED study, researching the interests, needs, and expectations of the more private groups in the field of religious education as the İLKE Association was on one hand among our prioritized agenda items. In particular, the religious education of the adults who play the most important role in rearing the new generation was among the priority issues needing to be studied upon. This is because children and young people are able to start the process of religious education by recognizing and accepting religious and moral values from their elders and families as religious and virtuous people. Therefore, the education programs that have demand for all kinds of social change should first of all address adults. However, the adult religious education programs carried out by both public and civil society organizations are seen to have not been prepared based on a systematic analysis of the educational needs. Without a doubt, the religious educational needs and views on religious education of adults has not stayed the same in the political, social, and cultural conditions that have changed quite rapidly in Turkey. For this reason, systematic analyses of educational needs obviously need to be periodically carried out. Based on this need, we as the İLKE Association have prepared the report “Adults’ Views on Religious Education and Religious Education Needs.” This research, which has been constructed with a broad perspective as a type of needs analysis, determines adults’ perceptions of religious education and the expectations of the individuals and institutions that provide religious educational service. In the conclusion of the research, suggestions are presented on what the future trends might be in order to make studies on the public and civil society organizations and communities who offer religious education and the people who provide services in these institutions more effective and productive.

2012 was a year when significant changes were made in the field of religious education in Turkey. Alongside the re-staging of the education system, elective religious lessons were included in the curriculum for the purpose of teaching in depth from sources of religious knowledge. Introducing our children to the verses of Allah, being aware of the life of the Prophet, and having basic religious knowledge is important in contributing to their spiritual development. We as the İLKE Association gave ourselves the task of examining and evaluating the extent to which public’s expectations from the religious lessons that had become self-contained in Turkey’s new education system had been met. For this purpose, we published the report “Elective Religious Lessons in the New Education System: Possibilities, Opportunities, Actors, Problems, and Recommended Solutions”. Based on the in-depth interviews made with the students, teachers, and parents, who are components of the education system, the prepared report determined the ways of applying elective religious lessons, the possibilities they provide, and the problems experienced in the process.

The İLKE Association, which continues studies on the history and current situation of religious education in Turkey, published the report “The Role of Parents in Children’s Religious Development: Expectations and Areas of Strain”, which contained suggestions about the problem areas that families, who are the first school of religious education, come across in the child’s religious education and some of their solution methods. A 15-hour education program was developed as a result of this research, which aimed to draw attention to what can be done for developing the educational aspects of the family, which has critical importance in teaching the religion of Islam and having it come to life, and for children to be able to receive a healthy religious education. The Religious Education in the Family Support Program (Aile’de Din Eğitimi Destek Programı [ADEP]) provides families some suggestions for their own religious lives as well as on raising their children as religious individuals and provides families with perspective in this sense.

The İLKE Association, which performs studies in the field of religious education, will continue to address religious education through different dimensions by developing these studies.

Yusuf Alpaydın


Arife Gümüş Sarı