Two paths for Turkey
If any country wants to get ahead in science and technology, the path is quite simple.
The first step is to generate a pool of talented individuals residing in the country, either by education or by immigration. Some countries are better at educating; others are better at attracting bright minds. Finland is the best in education, while the U.S., the U.K. and Germany are not as good as Finland in educating future techies but they are much better at attracting foreigners.
The second step is to give these individuals support, both financially and psychologically. You must have a sound entrepreneurship system to support talented individuals by means of financial benefits and by creating a culture that these bright minds would like to contribute to, not run away from. Your country’s biggest firms must also have big R&D investments in various fields.
So what about Turkey?
Unfortunately, the country could once have been the next U.K., but not anymore. Around 2008-2010, Turkey was attracting bright people from all around the world. Foreign companies wanted to enter the Turkish market as soon as possible. Turkey was also doing fine in education and were around the average in PISA scores.
This is no longer the case. If the current trends don’t change, Turkey will never be the next Britain and Istanbul will not be the next London. The general culture of the city and the country has changed dramatically, and as a result expats have lost interest in Turkey and many Turks have begun to go abroad once again.
As the latest PISA results show, Turkey has also experienced a steep decline in its quality of education. Our PISA scores are now well below average. In 10 years we are not likely to have enough well-educated people around to carry us into the next technological wave. Turkey will continue to be a market for technological products, rather than a market creating technological products.
Can this be reversed? Yes it can, if the government is willing. The sharp decline in education quality shows us that its change to the “4+4+4” system has not been successful. Will the government think about changing it? Will it decide to decrease the hours devoted to religious study? Will it decide to shut down some of the religion-focused İmam Hatip High Schools?
I don’t know. All I know is that if it doesn’t take these steps, Turkey will be evolving backwards. If Turkey doesn’t embrace an education system more like advanced Western countries or Japan, we will not be able to create a better future. If we do not change our culture into a more tolerant one, we will not be able to create a better future.
We can only hope that the government will not act according to ideology and religion, but rather based on common sense, when deciding on which of the two paths to take for the education of future generations.