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On the Way to School (2008)

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On the Way to School is a movie starring Emre Aydin, Rojda Huz, and Vehip Huz. One year in the life of a Turkish teacher, teaching the Turkish language to Kurdish children in a remote village in Turkey. The children can't speak Turkish, the teacher can't speak Kurdish... See full summary »

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(as Ozgür Dogan),
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Cast

Credited cast:
Emre Aydin ... Emre
Rojda Huz ... Rojda
Vehip Huz ... Vehip Huz
Zulkuf Huz ... Zülküf
... Sam (voice)
Zulkuf Yildirim ... Zülküf
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Storyline

One year in the life of a Turkish teacher, teaching the Turkish language to Kurdish children in a remote village in Turkey. The children can't speak Turkish, the teacher can't speak Kurdish and is forced to become an exile in his own country. On the Way to School is a film about a Turkish teacher who is alone in a village as an authority of the state, and about his interaction with the Kurdish children who have to learn Turkish. The film witnesses the communication problem emphasizing the loneliness of a teacher in a different community and culture; and the changes brought up by his presence into this different community during one year. The film chronicles one school year, starting from September 2007 until the departure of the teacher for summer holiday in June 2008. During this period, they begin to know and understand each other mutually and slowly. Written by Ozgur Dogan

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Genres:

Documentary | Drama

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Details

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Release Date:

23 October 2009 (Turkey)  »

Also Known As:

Iskolába menet  »

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Box Office

Budget:

€209,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

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Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

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User Reviews

 
Trenchant Criticism of a Blinkered Educational Policy
11 September 2015 | by See all my reviews

Released in 2009, İKİ DİL BİR BAVUL is a low-key documentary that nonetheless makes some important points about the shortcomings of the Turkish education system. Ever since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's time, public school policy has been dictated by the Ministry of Education (Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı), which had consciously reinforced the one-nation ideology by insisting that all classes should be delivered in Turkish. This might work in the majority of schools, but falls flat in the mainly Kurdish-speaking east of the country.

Orhan Eskiköy and Özgür Doğan's film explains why. An idealistic young educator Emre comes from Denizli in the west of Turkey to the village of Demirci in the east. This is a predominantly rural community whose inhabitants eke out an existence in an inhospitable landscape by tending sheep or growing wheat. They live a very self- contained life under primitive conditions; most of the mud-brick houses lack running water, and the women mostly use local produce to create their meals. Few of them can either read or write; hitherto they have had very little need to.

Entering this community and trying to teach the learners represents a difficult, if not impossible task. The children seldom actually come to school; and when Emre encourages them to do so, he finds it almost impossible to communicate with them. They know very little Turkish, having only heard a few words on television; in turn, Emre speaks no Kurdish. Hence they are all imprisoned by their respective languages. The children might repeat the familiar phrase "Ne Mutlu Türküm Diyene" (Happy is he who is a Turk), but they have no understanding of what it means. On the celebrations for Children's Day (23 April), a holiday instituted by Atatürk both to reward children and remind them of the importance of Republican values, the children play games and mouth the phrases they are supposed to do, but the significance of the occasion eludes them. Try as he might, Emre finds that progress in class is slow, often impossible.

Having said that, he is not without his faults. There is little indication of his being prepared to meet the children halfway and learn some Kurdish during his time at the school; and some of his pedagogical methods leave a lot to be desired. Merely shouting at the children and/or intimidating them by making them repeat phrases over and over again is hardly conductive to creating a good learning environment. On the other hand he is a new teacher with little grasp of effective classroom technique, so perhaps we can exonerate him.

The documentary takes place over a year, from September to June. The directors make much of the changing landscapes from the hot sun of late summer to autumn colors, a harsh winter with snow whipping across the barren landscape, and the onset of spring with a duck leading her ducklings across the farm. They emphasize the unchanging nature of life in Demirci, whose citizens pursue a life that remains immune from any of the major urban and social developments taking place in the west of the country. In this kind of situation, it's hardly likely that anyone would respect the Ministry's desire for a Turkish-only school.

Since the film was made, the government apparently made some moves towards a more multicultural education policy by permitting some lessons to be given in Kurdish. In light of current events, however, where renewed conflicts have broken out in the east of the country between the security forces and the local people, we might wonder whether such initiatives have any real chance of taking root, or whether the east will remain the cultural and educational backwater as represented in this film.


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