No genuine insights in trivial stereotypes of Turkish life;Letter

17th April 1998 at 01:00
You are right to report on the concerns of the Turkish community over Edexcel's plans to drop the only Turkish A-level course in the UK from its range of syllabuses(TES, March 20).

However, as a London born teacher of Turkish-Italian origin, working in a school where a significant proportion of the students are from a Turkish-speaking background, I find the tone of The TES's commentary offensive and trivialising. The reference to individuals "choking on their coffee in the cafes of Istanbul, Nicosia and Stoke Newington" at the start of the article reveals the writer's disdain while the threat of a mobilisation of the "entire Turkish-speaking world" conjures up familiar racist western stereotypes of an excitable, fundamentalist East.

Moreover, the suggestion that for the Turkish in Britain, Edexcel's syllabus is "a prop to their community", serving to ensure that "Turkish remains studied and spoken by their children" is to so fundamentally misunderstand how dual language and non-English speaking UK households operate that, frankly, it beggars belief.

Turkish-speaking children, such as my own son who is not yet old enough to attend infant school, increasingly learn Turkish and English in the home, this bilingual experience enriching their development. However, in common with many other ethnic minority groups, the Turkish community sees curriculum space and public exam syllabuses as a means of accrediting, valuing and, in a multi-ethnic society, sharing and celebrating their identity.

Exam boards are businesses and low-entry courses present them with legitimate concerns but this is no reason for The TES to ridicule a community and a culture.

There are important issues here: the responsibilities of the exam boards within the framework of Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's support for minority languages, maintaining such courses in a marketised education system, questions about the role of public subsidy in sustaining minority syllabuses; enough, in short, to draw your serious concern.

A willingness to challenge stereotypes, a sensitivity to its readership and an ability to provide genuine insights are the marks of a quality newspaper. For once, The TES has failed this test.

FILIZ CIVALE-UYAR

Teacher of art 98 Colney Hatch Lane Muswell Hill, London N10

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