• Salih Tuzer

Student thesis: Phd


The mission, policy, and practice of religious education (RE) is highly controversial in Turkey, where the population is predominantly Muslim, and the state is secular (laic). This study investigated the experiences and perceptions of students and the other main stakeholders (such as parents, RE teachers, and imams) about RE in the state school system, at home, and in summer Quran schools. Further, it provided insights into the main stakeholders’ experiences and perceptions of the tensions and dilemmas at the interface between the RE curriculum in schools and the Turkish religious beliefs and culture. With an embedded single case study approach, this study involved four units of analysis: students, RE teachers, imams, and parents. The research sites were representative of the full range of state schools: a primary school, a middle school, a general high school, and an Imam-Hatip school (a high school intended to train religious officials). The data was collected through individual interviews with seven RE teachers and two imams, focus group discussions with 53 students, interviews with four families, and a questionnaire survey of parents. The qualitative data was analysed through thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006), and the questionnaire was analysed using descriptive statistics. Bronfenbrenner’s PPCT (Process-Person-Context-Time) bioecological model was used to gain interpretative leverage, which ensured a theoretical baseline for a greater understanding of how various factors and actors contributed to Turkish students’ religious and moral development, and enabled the discussion of the main stakeholders’ experiences and perceptions of RE in Turkey through these four different dimensions. It was shown that some tensions were generated as a result of mismatch between the Turkish state and the Turkish-Muslim nation (e.g. teaching about religious practices, the aims of RE in state schools, the nature of Imam-Hatip schools, wearing headscarves, etc.). It was found that the RE curriculum in state schools (except Imam-Hatip schools) was interpreted differently depending on the religiosity of the local community within which the school was located; the implementation of RE curriculum in religiously heterogeneous local communities was reportedly more problematic, particularly the tensions in respect of teaching about religious practices. Moreover, Turkish students in schools did not have access to the meaning of the Quran, which was written in Arabic. Students and RE teachers felt that the RE curriculum in the first and in the last years of Imam-Hatip schools was overloaded; thus, the transition to Imam-Hatip and from Imam-Hatip schools was reportedly problematic. Summer Quran schools were not inclusive of other sects, and they were also found to have some RE teaching issues, e.g. imams/teachers were not qualified in terms of pedagogic knowledge and understanding of Arabic. Further, students and RE teachers believed that there was a religious and moral decline in Turkish society, which was also perceived as a negative factor impacting upon RE. These findings suggest the need for: a more inclusive RE approach in terms of diversity and more alternatives for RE in state schools; re-organizing the RE curriculum, and an improvement of the teaching of Arabic in Imam-Hatip schools; and, increasing the number of imams/teachers qualified in terms of pedagogic knowledge and understanding of Arabic in summer Quran schools.
Date of Award31 Dec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMary Smith (Supervisor) & Olwen Mcnamara (Supervisor)

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