A campaign to save Turkish exams in Britain has secured widespread backing. First brought to the public’s attention by Londra Gazete in March, teachers, students and parents in the community were astonished by national examination board OCR’s decision to abolish Turkish exams. As things stands, no secondary school will be able to offer Turkish GCSE and A Levels from 2017.
Since breaking the news, Londra Gazete has launched a community-backed campaign to reinstate Turkish exams. A petition on Change.org has attracted just over 2,500 signatures and there has been universal support from Britain’s three big political parties.
On 24 March, Nick de Bois (then Enfield North MP) led a debate in Parliament about lesser taught minority languages in Britain and the threat they were under. The heightened awareness has resulted in many other high profile politicians throwing their weight behind the Save Our Turkish Exams campaign, including Mayor of London Boris Johnson (himself of Turkish heritage), former Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone, and Labour shadow Business Secretary Chukka Ummuna and Catherine West, the new Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green.
Labour was the first party to pledge to reinstate the exams if they formed the next government. Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt called the decision to scrap Turkish “short-sighted”. The commitment has been met by the Conservatives, while the Lib Dems have said they respect the independence of examination boards, but if elected, would meet with the boards to impress upon them the need to maintain Turkish and other diverse languages.
The shock decision by OCR to scrap Turkish came even after the British Council ranked it as the 8th most important language to learn. The exam board claims there is insufficient demand for this and a host of other languages, including Bengali, Guajarati and Polish, which are also under threat of being scrapped. Yet their own stats from June 2014 show more students took Turkish ‘A’ Level than either German or Spanish (618 for Turkish, 586 Spanish and 398 for German), suggesting that other factors were involved in their decision.
OCR’s decision will deprive Turkish-speaking teenagers in Britain of a vital bond to their cultural roots. While other exams in Turkish exist, these are aimed at native speakers whose standard of Turkish is far higher. The OCR examination is aimed as testing Turkish as a foreign language.
Londra Gazete’s English News Editor Mike Daventry told T-VINE, “We will be tracking the issue after the elections to ensure the parties follow through on their pledges and help re-instate Turkish exams.”
You can show your support for the campaign by signing the online petition here.
Main photo: Conservatives Gonul Daniels, Nick de Bois, and Boris Johnson support Turkish exams