Theology Education in Turkey: An Overview of the Relationship between Teaching Programs and Employment Opportunities


İstanbul Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi, vol.37, no.0, pp.59-77, 2017 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier


Organizational structure, operational mechanism, and employment conditions of Theology faculties have always been hotly debated topics in Turkish academic circles. Many employment‐related issues, such as procedures for student acceptance, program outcomes, and broadening students’ future job opportunities for graduates, are still significant today. These endless discussions have most negative effects on the motivation of every person in Theology faculties involved in the teaching and learning processes. Theology Faculties, which were established as the only higher religious education institutions in the Turkish Republic, have throughout their history been continually scrutinized by different views and ideologies exclusively for the purposes of their establishment. As a result of these considerations, the teaching content, and particularly the curriculum, has transformed and evolved concomitantly. Although Theology faculties, at the beginning of the Republican Era, were established with the specific aim of meeting the needs of the country for well‐educated and equipped religious functionaries, they could survive only for nine years, between 1924 and 1933, and were closed without achieving this goal. Ideological debates on employment‐related issues, such as for what purpose and in the frame of which responsibility would these university graduates to perform their future career duties, also played an important part in this turbulent process. Thus, it was not possible to actualize the first ascribed goal for their establishment. The second goal envisaged for the Theology faculties was to perform the activities related to religious education and other religious affairs based on an embracing and moderate religious discourse, with a certain reference to the Quran and Sunnah, to contribute to the unity and solidarity of the country. In this respect, one of the reasons why radical movements could not find any solid ground in Turkey and its surroundings, even during the times when religion‐centred political and ideological developments intensified, is that Theology faculties introduced a reliable religious perception and adopted an embracing approach toward the different fragments of society. With their intense influence on society Theology faculties created a vacuum effect for the radicalized movements by preventing them from establishing permanent habitat in Turkish society. However, today it is clear that Theology faculties are far from attaining these goals. It is possible to claim that these faculties are much more inclined to concentrate on creating religious men rather than fulfilling their previously assigned responsibilities, training intellectuals professionalized in religious matters, which is articulated in the Unity of Education Law as “senior experts of religion”. Examining the faculty curriculum over a certain period proves this alteration. Today, Theology faculties follow one single teaching program. In the academic year 1998–1999, the Department of Teacher Training for Primary Schools Religious Culture and Ethics Class, with the main purpose of graduating prospective school teachers, was established within Theology faculties’ organizational structures. However, in the academic year 2014–2015 the programs ceased to accept students based on the decision of the Higher Council of Education, and in the academic year 2016–2017 it was de facto closed. Thus, the Theology program is the only program that accepts students at present. A faculty that runs one teaching program attracts an important question: how can Theology faculties train experts for the different fields required by the modern society and its changing perceptions on employment through one single program? This question constitutes the main research problem of this paper. Examining the curriculum of Theology faculties results in two main problem areas. First, there is the lack of a stable relationship between the purposes and the employment areas of the faculties. As the formal and non‐formal religious institutions offer the main graduate job opportunities, the curriculum should be designed to include the courses that future employees would benefit from. However, the curriculum does not have a proportional distribution of classes in regards to their associated employment areas. The second problem is excessive numbers of classes. Although the numbers vary according to the faculty, the average number of classes is more than 70 during the four‐year study period. It may be claimed that having a large number of classes is a parameter for the richness of the curriculum, yet, in practice this is under scrutiny. Benefiting from the curriculum at best cost is not possible without relating the teaching content to employment requirements and compartmentalization of the program if necessary. Also, compartmentalization will require readjustment of the curriculum for employment areas. Thus, in the process of reorganizing the teaching program and, correspondingly, its content, the most crucial matter that should be taken into consideration is to analyse the requests and expectations from the field.
Türkiye’de öteden beri İlahiyat fakültelerinin yapısı, işleyişi ve istihdam alanları tartışmakonusu olmuştur. Bu fakültelerin nasıl öğrenci alacağından, mezunlarının nerelerde ve nasıl istihdamedileceğine kadar bir dizi tartışma günümüzde de halen varlığını sürdürmektedir. Bu durum doğalolarak, ilahiyat fakültelerinde eğitim alan ve eğitim veren herkesin motivasyonunu bir şekildeetkilemektedir. Günümüzde ilahiyat fakültelerinin tek bir program üzerinden öğrenci alması, bir soruyugündeme getirmektedir: Değişen ve çeşitlenen toplum beklentileri ve istihdam alanları karşısındailahiyat fakültelerinin tek bir programla farklı alanlarda uzman yetiştirmesi mümkün müdür? İşte busoru aynı zamanda makalenin de temel problemini teşkil etmektedir.Bu çalışmada ilahiyat fakültelerinin geçmişten günümüze program yapılarıyla istihdamalanları arasındaki ilişki incelenmektedir. Bu bağlamda çalışma üç bölüm altında ele alınmaktadır.Birinci bölümde ilahiyat fakültelerinin temel amaçları ve program yapısı incelenmekte ve programyapısının amaçlara uygun oluşturulup oluşturulmadığına bakılmaktadır. İkinci bölümde, istihdamalanları ve program yapısı arasındaki ilişki ele alınmakta ve mevcut durum ve istihdam alanınıngerekleri üzerine odaklanılmaktadır. Sonuç kısmında ise, çalışmadan elde edilen sonuçlara göre bazıönerilere yer verilmektedir.