Turkey lags behind in STEM policies

Turkey lags behind in STEM policies

The executive board chairman of the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD), Erol Bilecik, has drawn attention to slackness in Turkey’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) system. “We expect that in 2013, employment will reach up to 34 million and 3.5 million of this will be STEM employments. There is a gap in this because intelligent engineers often do not pursue their professions. We must solve this,” he said. 

The summer vacation is long and together with the long-lasting festive holidays, “slackness” is a word that is not too foreign to us. Of course, we can also talk about the life-threatening “earthquake slackness” and “flood slackness.” Bilecik, with whom we recently had a conversation, draws attention to the “STEM slackness.” In our meeting, Bilecik had a report prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers in collaboration with TÜSİAD entitled “The necessity of STEM in Turkey toward 2023.”

“Between the 2016-2023 period, the necessity of STEM employment will reach around 1 million. But we can foresee that with the prediction of the number of graduates, it will not compensate for 31 percent of this need,” said Bilecik.

Currently, there are around 2.5 million STEM graduates. “It looks like we will compensate for the 700,000 people but what will happen to the other 300,000 is unknown,” Bilecik said. 

Bilecik emphasized STEM’s five primary subjects as the following:

-  The steps that will be taken in developing STEM education and STEM labor must be on a national policy level. 

- STEM education must start before preschool education. (I also want to add to this that let alone STEM education we are far from even reaching the “100 percent goal” in preschool education that we once talked about.)

- The syllabus and quality of education given to teachers need to be improved for the creative, innovator and critical minded individuals.

- More development in university-industry cooperation and content arrangement in higher education in accordance with the expectations from the business world.

- Directing young graduates to predominant STEM jobs, instead of letting them shift to other fields in the business world.

Concerning this issue, Bilecik said, “Graduates from engineering faculties often do not start with their profession because they do not see a future in this field.”

It is very true that there are many young people who are engineers but do other work. When we return to the PwC report, which was prepared with OECD data, the figures already tell us this.

57 percent in production

Some 17 percent of the graduates in Turkey are STEM graduates.

But, most of them work outside of their fields.

According to 2013-2016 data, 57 percent of STEM graduates are in the production sector.

According to Bilecik, the top reason for this shift is the fact that awareness for STEM has not been formed in Turkey, yet.

And another reason is that students do not have enough knowledge on the fields where they can use their competencies.

“On the top priority of the subjects TÜSİAD is concerned with comes STEM along with democracy, the European Union, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Because the future economy will be shaped by knowledge and innovation; STEM skills will be needed in every field,” he said. 

How will Turkey be competitive as long as it continues with its STEM slackness?

Imagine this: With the conditions of today, the products that are produced in Turkey are classified according to their technology level, and the percentage of high quality products stays only at 3.5.

Are we going to catch up with the Fourth Industrial Revolution with this percentage?