Why is Turkey’s education system failing?
At the Sept. 26 opening ceremony for the 2017-18 academic year, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan admitted that the government had been “unsuccessful” in the areas of education and culture.
While considering the reasons for our failure in education, just think about this simple question: Has a single well-rounded scientific study or report been prepared over the past year on reforming the country’s education system and enhancing its general mindset?
This must be our fundamental problem, not only in education but in many areas: Behaving according to the political and ideological priorities and not according to scientific research and specialist knowledge, even in areas where scientific data and expertise are required.
The recent abolition of the TEOG exam on transitioning from primary to secondary education is a good example of this. It was done simply based on the political authority’s will, instead of any educational experts.
Let’s put aside the “us and you” mindset and focus instead on the simple truth: Throughout all of Turkey’s modern history - under Atatürk, former President İsmet İnönü, Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, various military coup regimes, and under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) - the discharge of academics from universities and the practice of the political authorities binding universities to the political will, instead of guaranteeing their autonomy, show our long-standing mindset toward “science.”
The latest bitter debates over the national curriculum are also like this. In fields where expertise is required, politics should make decisions in light of the scientific data. Pedagogy is a science in our times.
Speaking at the same academic ceremony as Erdoğan, Higher Education Board (YÖK) head Yekta Saraç spoke about the idea of the “globalization of universities.” Indeed, in this age universities, their students and their teachers are successful or unsuccessful according to “international” standards and diversities.
Bearing all this in mind, education specialists of various tendencies and from the international science community must research and prepare reports to address Turkey’s long-running education problem.
Let’s take a look at the 1967writings of the late Prof. Mümtaz Turhan, one of the architects of my own way of thinking. “Western civilization is a system composed of institutions based on science, the scientific mindset, and techniques. It is concerned with the principles of rights and freedoms,” Turhan wrote.
In short, success necessitates science, technology and legal order.
Even though he was a conservative nationalist, Turhan gave priority to the ideas of science, rights and freedoms, over and above the importance of lifestyles and consumption.
He said “at least 200,000” qualified scientific and technical-focused people were needed for the Turkey of 1967.
According to data from 2007, the number of people engaged in academic research per one million people in Turkey is 666. This figure is almost 10 times higher in South Korea, where there are 6,028 researchers for every million.
We can easily see the comparison between the education and economic outcomes of the two countries.
Today, according to the World Economic Forum, Turkey was in 91th place in 2008 in the international secondary education quality ranking. It fell back to 105th place in 2016-17. Why is this?
Why does the AK Party not discuss in detail the subject of education? Why are so few people engaging in self-criticism on this issue?