A mistaken ‘project’ by the Education Ministry
The main problem with the education system in Turkey is that it generates inequality. It institutionalizes inequality. All other problems related to education are secondary issues.
But because we have a central examination called the Transition from Primary to Secondary Education (TEOG), it is quite easy to find a solution. The Education Ministry could announce that the 1,000 middle schools with the worst TEOG scores and the 1,000 high schools with the worst central University Entrance Exam (YGS) scores are now “project schools.” It could pledge that these 2,000 schools will be removed from the list within a maximum of four years.
By moving our worst schools upward with this method, we could reduce the standards inequality among our schools to an acceptable level in around 10 to 12 years.
However, instead of aiming to raise the level of the worst schools, the Education Ministry seems to be determined to implement a practice that is exactly the opposite.
Since 2011 it has engaged in the “Project Schools” initiative. A regulation was recently issued that made the rules of the practice more certain. So far, 12,615 of our high schools have been declared “project schools.”
What criteria were used to select these “project schools”? Two paragraphs of the sixth clause of the related regulation are as follows:
“In central exams, the high school should have scored within the top five high schools in its province.”
“The school should have historic characteristics regarding the date the school was founded, its organizational structure, or in terms of its alumni.”
In other words, “project schools” are the best schools and the most historic schools.
While the vast majority of the country’s education system is constituted of the “worst” schools, it is totally perverse for the “project school” initiative to be carried out for the “best.”
In Turkey, whenever “equality” is mentioned, what is understood is “equality in despair” rather than equality in welfare and prosperity. This is such a terrible form of distortion.
But in fact, the Education Ministry is actually conducting a “mediocretization” project for the 12,615 best schools it has declared “project schools.” Why? Because if you have worked in one of these schools for more than seven years, you are transferred to another school. Newcomers can only stay for four years.
Schools cannot be considered without their teachers. If a school is successful, it is due to its teachers. To transfer teachers from school to school every four years is a practice that can only lead to preventing them from advancing in their professions. Successful teachers at successful schools are successful probably because they have been at the same school for years. It is dubious whether sending them to other schools would contribute to these schools’ success, but we can say with some certainty that the schools they have left will drop in quality.
I can understand, to a certain extent, changes in school administrations. But new administrators should be selected from the same school. Schools are not ordinary offices or ordinary government institutions. Schools are special places that are united and integrated with the students, parents and local communities they serve.
If the ministry wants to spread the success of the best schools and aims to have more schools among the best, it should try to spread equality in success – not equality in misery and mediocrity.
For this, we should carry out “projects” for our weakest and worst schools, not for the best schools.