PISA head warns Turkey over education system changes
Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) Director Andreas Schleicher has warned that educators must be well-qualified in order to effectively implement open-ended question style testing, speaking at a summit in Antalya, as Turkey prepares to change its high-school entrance exam system.
“Multiple choice questions don’t allow the evaluation of students’ knowledge in different criteria. Open-ended questions, however, allow an evaluation of student’s knowledge, critical thinking, creative thinking and analytical thinking,” Schleicher said at the Education Leaders Summit, organized by the Istanbul-based Bahçeşehir University.
“But open-ended exams also have difficulties of their own. Teachers who will evaluate the exams should be well-educated and anonymity must be maintained,” said Schleicher, who joined the conversation via video conference call.
Also speaking at the event, Sinem Vatanartıran, Associate Professor at Bahçeşehir Education Sciences Institute and founder of Bahçeşehir University’s Washington, D.C. program, said recent changes had prompted concerns among parents, teachers and aspiring high-school students.
“We should not be afraid of exams. We should test students with the right intention,” said Vatanartıran, adding that a report of the summit’s conclusions would be sent to the Education Ministry.
Education leaders had criticized the recently removed Transition from Primary to Secondary Education (TEOG) exam for being little more than a “test of memory,” so any new system must be considered from multiple perspectives, said Özge Arslan, Vice President at Bahçeşehir College.
Questions linger over Turkey’s education system after the surprise removal of the TEOG system, which was only introduced by the government in 2013. The removal came after a statement from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sept. 17, in which he said he wanted a new system to be introduced in place of the TEOG.
“There is no obstacle for its immediate removal. It is a very simple issue,” Erdoğan told reporters, adding that he discussed the subject with Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on Sept. 16.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has fiercely criticized plans to change the system and the lack of expert consultation.
Lale Karabıyık, the CHP’s deputy chair in charge of education, blasted the government’s treatment of children as “experimental objects.”
“If TEOG is going to be lifted, its replacement should be the result of serious discussion among educators,” Karabıyık told daily Hürriyet on Sept. 29, the day Prime Minister Yıldırım officially declared that the system would be changing.
“In no place in the world are children used like this, as experimental objects. Education has turned into the government’s tool ... This country’s educators, child psychologists and education psychologists should come together to form an appropriate system, without allowing education to become a tool of political power, without allowing the interference of politics, taking into account the interests of children and youth,” she added.