KAGIDER hosted the Minister of Education Ömer Dinçer at its association’s headquarters in order to discuss Turkey’s new education laws. KADAV, AÇEV and ERG representatives were invited to join KAGIDER members. Prior to the meeting with Minister Dinçer, KAGIDER spoke to representatives of KADAV, AÇEV and ERG in order to prepare questions relevant to the upcoming session.
The May 12th meeting shed light on the fact that Turkey’s current education system remains flawed on many levels. Dinçer emphasized the need for a system of education that would allow students to compete on international levels. The new system would also allow for flexibility so as to create an atmosphere conducive to fostering students’ unique abilities and interests.
The Minister pointed out that the decisions of the 2010 Education Advisory Board were made after thoroughly researching other countries’ statistics and state of affairs.
He said that after much debate, the board had agreed upon what age children should begin school. He announced that the average age, 68-72 months, had been changed to 60-66 months. The Minister declared that in the 2011-2012 school year, 64% of children starting school were between the ages of 60-67 months, a clear sign of a move towards education reform. In 15 European Union countries, children begin their schooling at the age of 64 months. Though the results so far are encouraging, the different administrations addressing education reform separately must work together in order to tackle the issues in an efficient way.
43 countries were studied while researching ways to reform Turkey’s education laws. 98% of the countries employ different programs for the first grade: for instance, lesson hours are shorter (540-580 hours). For students in the 8th grade, total lesson hours can go up to 900 hours a year. The gradual rise in hours spent in school allows students to participate and learn in effective and efficient ways.
Other relevant issues were also brought up in meeting:
In Turkey, time spent in lessons is around 720 hours whereas in the other countries the total lessons add up to an average of 740 hours per year. Moreover, time spent in Turkish lessons is greater than necessary (250 hours per year), whereas math and science are underemphasized (150 hours per year). In some cases, schools provide children with additional math lessons instead of physical education, art and music.
With the new program, nearly 400 new students will begin school at the start of the 2012-2013 school year. New classrooms are needed, and teachers will receive intensive training in order to properly implement the new program.
If a student is not in school will be questioned by authorities. As is currently the case, parents who fail to enroll and send their children to school will be forced to pay a fine.
New emphasis will be placed on teaching foreign languages. Moreover, foreign language programs will shift in focus from grammar skills to communication skills.
New school campuses have been built in counties such as Beykoz. These will be examples for people also wishing to build new schools.
A school’s council will not be directly linked to its principal. Furthermore, if the principal accepts bribes from parents, he/she will be sanctioned by authorities.
The Minister pointed out financial problems related to female dormitories. He also pointed out that they were hoping to solve the funding issue for building and equipment with the help of sponsors. The priority will be for the cities which need elementary schools.
SBS will be removed in three years.
LGS will resemble the TOEFL’s procedures. Without an adequate number of colleges, entering without taking the required exams will not be allowed. There are 76o thousand students graduating. With the implementation of the new system this number will double.
The education budget is 52 billion (TL), whereas the total budget of the government is 310 billion (TL). The education system has the largest budget, and it is growing with the contributions of TÜBİTAK and YÖK. However, 80% of the allocated budget is used to pay educators’ salaries.
The ‘Fatih’ project will allow children to access the internet for free, both at school and at home. Teachers will have more access to information through the use of smart-boards and computers. Educators will attend presentations on how to make use of virtual video, and will pass on this information to their students. The use of computers will increase, but the hours of outdoor activities will also be increased to encourage social behavior of students.