Turkey’s education budget has doubled. What are the results?
The Education Reform Initiative (ERG), part of Sabancı University’s Istanbul Policy Center, is now 15 years old. The ERG recently produced an “Education Monitoring Report,” based on national and international data for the past decade and supported by the Mother-Child Education Foundation (AÇEV), the Aydın Doğan Foundation, the Enka Foundation, the Vehbi Koç Foundation, the Elginkan Foundation and the Borusan Kocabıyık Foundation.We had the opportunity to listen to the conclusions of the latest 2016-17 report with a number of colleagues and non-governmental organizations dedicated to education.
The report is the fruit of 10 years of research. A child who was six years old when the first report was being prepared is now 16 years old. And the ERG has been the leader in monitoring what this child has gone educationally through over this time.“We see that these children are not learning properly, but neither are we. We keep having the same conversations over and over again about the education system,” said Batuhan Aydagül, the ERG coordinator who has been closely studying Turkey’s education system since 2007.
Over the course of the research, debate has centered around how Turkey’s young population has great potential, how the Education Ministry cooperates with NGOs, how labor education has gone under the radar, how the “4+4+4” system has changed things, and the ups and downs of the so-called “Fatih Project” promising to prepare schools for technology.
More schools, more money “Over the past decade more money has been spent on education, more schools have been opened, and more teachers have been hired, but we cannot see any reflection of this in quality and comprehensive education. Children’s grades also show this,” Aydagül said.“The Education Ministry is constantly busy trying to solve problems it brings onto itself,” he added.
The removal of the Transition from Primary to Secondary Education (TEOG) exam in under 84 hours is just the latest example of this. Amid all these problems, does the Education Ministry consult organizations with knowledge and experience such as the ERG?Sadly, the answer is negative. According to the first article of the Education Monitoring Report’s evaluation summary: “The principles of transparency and participation are overlooked, even when decisions impacting all sides are being taken.”For example, specialists working in the education field, NGOs and academics were not involved in the process of preparing the latest “Elementary and Middle School Education Program” published in July.
The ERG report makes a number of other important points. One of the key overlooked issues is the question of regional inequality in mathematics. According to an infamous 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, around 15 percent of children in Turkey lack the most basic, necessary skills. Out of 70 countries in 2015, Turkey ranked 49th in mathematics, 50th in reading and 52nd in sciences. The PISA report showed a “success cliff” between different school types and different regions of the country.
For example, in sciences, there was a 66-point difference between students in the western Marmama and Central Anatolian regions. Clearly, our education system has a serious problem in terms of regional inequalities. Regional inequalities can also be seen in the number of schools being built. What’s more, means to access education are also not equal. In the ERG report’s preface, Hacer Foggo, the Turkey observer for the European Roma Rights Center, spoke about how Roma children have been alienated and thus forced to leave school and start working.Let’s not forget the critical issue of Syrian children in Turkey.
Out of the 833,000 Syrian children of school age in Turkey, only 494,653 are currently registered as students. Taking into account inflation, the Education Ministry’s budget has doubled since 2006.The budget, which was 74.4 billion Turkish Liras in 2016, rose to 85 billion liras in 2017. But what is the real worth of this budget? It clearly has no reflection on our children’s levels of academic success or happiness. Indeed, according to the PISA data, 28.1 percent of students in Turkey are not happy.