Ankara (AFP) – Questions about religion will be introduced in two Turkish university entrance exams next year, a first in the mainly Muslim but staunchly secular country, an official said Tuesday.
Students will be asked to answer five questions on religion in the Transition to Higher Education Examination (YGS) on 24 March, and eight questions in the social sciences branch of the Undergraduate Placement Examination known as LYS-4 on 15 June, the official told AFP.
Both are standardised tests required to be admitted to higher education in Turkey.
“It is the first time that students will answer questions on religion in a Turkish university exam,” said the official on condition of anonymity.
Students in Turkish state schools are required to take religious courses.
The new exam questions, however, are controversial in a country which has non-Sunni Muslims, Christians and Jews, although 99 per cent of the population is said to be Muslim.
In February, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said his government wanted to “raise a religious youth,” a comment that has touched a nerve, fuelling debates on a hidden government agenda to Islamise secular Turkey.
Erdoğan is himself a graduate of a clerical school and the leader of the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Secular quarters argue Erdoğan’s conservative government is step by step imposing religion in every aspect of life, saying many restaurants already refuse to serve alcohol during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
They also criticise recent changes to legislation under which religious school graduates will now be able to access any university branch they like, while in the past they had only access to theology schools.