Minority education in a european context. Critique of the educational programme of minority nationalism and of the policy of state appeasement.
Athanasios E. Gotovos
The Muslim minority in Greece (W. Thrace) constituted until recently the only fficially recognized Muslim minority population in a European state. Although most states of the European Union have Muslim groups either as citizens or as migrants, an officially recognized minority poses partly different questions and raises different issues especially in the field of education. The public Greek and international discourse on the educational situation of the Muslims in Greece follows one of the next two trends: it is either a narrative of suffering, repression, subordination and harassment of the minority on the part of the Greek state and its central and local institutions which results to poor educational achievement, identity loss and social injustice, or a narrative of the educational and social well-being of the minority and of equal opportunity practices, due to the acceptance and implementation of the principle of respect toward cultural (religious, linguistic) difference on the part of the Greek state. Behind these narratives lies a conflict of symbols and codes. Minority symbols and codes are established, strengthened and reproduced via the institution of a separate bilingual minority education, through the presence of informal religious education (Koran afternoon courses) and through the establishment of several parallel educational informal structures on the part of the minority. On the other hand the Greek state has followed a policy of “educational appeasement” toward the main formative power (Turkey) of the educational policies of the Muslim minority in W. Thrace which consists in (a) denying other than Turkish language, ethnicity and culture within the minority groups, (b) refraining from the establishment of a wide network of kindergarten for the minority children in the region and (c) initiating measures of educational affirmative action for the minority. This type of interaction between the Greek state, the Turkish state and the minority leadership results in an inadequate command of the mainstream codes ( greek language, culture, citizenship) on the part of the minority youth. This handicap expresses itself in the unfavorable allocation of educational, economic and social status in the region and is interpreted by the minority leadership and other actors as the outcome of ongoing “racism” on the part of the majority against the minority. In this sense the greek state contributes itself through a defensive strategy of refraining from the implementation of integrative policies to the creation of a parallel society in W. Thrace and of the potential for ethnically expressed social and cultural conflict in the region.