The government’s most important duty
There is a four-year, single-party rule ahead of us. This election-free period presents very important opportunities. Turkey, in these four years, can achieve almost all of the reforms it has been seeking for many years. The responsibility is on the shoulders of the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
I am not going to list now all the reforms that need to be done; today, I want to focus on what I think is the most important one of these: education.
Our problem is obvious: Unfortunately, our 12-year compulsory education does not raise students to the required caliber.
Among the 1 million students that start school every year, only about 100,000 of them, after 12 years, receive an education at a level that would allow them to compete with their peers in the world. About 250,000-300,000 of those 1 million graduates are at a level that we can call “good for Turkey.” The remaining 600,000 to 650,000 of our kids, let alone competing with the world, barely possess an education that would allow them to compete in Turkey.
Leaving aside the permanent inequalities this situation creates, the output of education very much limits Turkey’s chances of competing with the world.
What is meant by “inequality in education” is exactly this.
For this reason, what needs to happen is to ensure that not just 100,000 of our kids obtain the level of education to compete with the world, but at least 800,000 of our kids. Only then can we talk about an “egalitarian education.”
Well, how are we going to do this?
The first thing we should do is to invest all the energy of the Education Ministry into the content and quality of education.
My quite radical suggestion in this area is that all the schools in Turkey, together with their faculty members, should be handed over to metropolitan municipalities in big cities and in special provincial administrations in other provinces.
The ministry should set the criteria to become a teacher, but we should leave it to the cities to recruit teachers. We should open opportunities for certain disadvantaged cities to pay higher salaries.
While training all our current teachers in on-the-job training, in three to four years, we should upgrade the moral and material status of the profession of teaching to a much higher level.
The Education Ministry should take measures to increase the quality of education nationwide and set targets, ensuring that these targets are achieved.
First of all, we should be able to carry the success to over 50 percent in central examinations in three basic fields, in other words, reading and comprehension of the written material in students’ mother tongue, being able to express themselves in writing, and in the math and science fields.
No more than 20 percent
In the same classroom, if the best student gets, let’s say, 100 on the math test, then the aim should be that the worst student gets no less than 80.
This permissible difference of no more than 20 percent should not only be applied in one class but in every class and every school and, indeed, nationwide. The day that the difference in exam grades of the best student and the worst student nationwide does not exceed 20 percent is the day we ensure an “egalitarian” education, not any time before.
For some time, Turkey has been recruiting teachers among teacher candidates graduating from universities by testing them in their fields. In other words, the Education Ministry is holding an examination because it is not sure of the quality and standard of the education given to teacher candidates in universities. Thus we can see how unsuccessful teacher candidates can be in their own fields.
Would you like to fly in a plane by a pilot who has scored 50 out of 100 on his vocational test? However, we trust our children to a math teacher who has scored 50 or 60 on an exam.
We should raise the moral and material status of this profession, encouraging the top 30,000 to 40,000 of our students who sit the university entrance exam to choose education departments.
Unless we upgrade the quality of our teachers, we cannot solve the quality problem in education. We should be able to make teachers one of the most respectable and best paying jobs.