Quality of human resources in Turkey
Yes, separatist terrorism has ramped up in recent months and we are living in an undeclared war. Yes, we have “achieved” a first since the Ottoman era and we are now on non-friendly terms with both the West and the East. Yes, our domestic political fights are very bitter. Yes, our welfare is decreasing and we are getting poorer in dollar terms.
None of these issues are small. But there is a basic issue that lies behind all of them - one that we never discuss. The name of this issue is the inadequacy of Turkey’s human resources: Its scarcity in the quality and quantity of its educated human power.
Is nobody, for instance, curious about how Germany, the United Kingdom and France had got back on their feet within just 20 years after being wiped out in the Second World War? How come Iraq has not even moved an inch 13 years after the toppling of Saddam Hussein? There is one answer to this question: Human capital.
Germany, France and the U.K. were destroyed but their human capital remained intact to a certain extent.
In Iraq there was no human capital before or after the war, and there will not be for a long time.
Our republic’s biggest success, and its biggest failure, has been in creating human resources.
On the one hand, modern education was easily adopted and successfully implanted. An education system was created that raised scientists like Nobel Prize-winning Aziz Sancar. But we were not able to transform these efforts into a system accessible to the entire population. Education created an elite class and over time that class reproduced itself; but top-level education was not accessible to broader segments.
The decision for eight-year compulsory education was made at the beginning of the 1970s but it was implemented only in 1998. We are now paying for 30 years of belatedness. Today, after 90 years, a huge gap has been closed and all of our children have access to education.
We achieve this, but now we have issues about the quality of education and other recurring problems. Today in Turkey, not even half the young population aged between 25 and 34 are high school graduates, as compulsory 12-year education is a relatively new thing. What’s more, in Turkey less than 30 percent of this same segment has a university degree.
Only about 20 percent of our working population between the ages of 25 and 64 are high school graduates.
In South Korea, the rate of high school graduates of the same segment is 40 percent.
Out of the working population, between the ages 25 and 64, 5 percent are illiterate, 46 percent are primary school graduates, 13 percent are middle school graduates, 19 percent are high school graduates, 5 percent have a two-year degree, 10 percent have an undergraduate degree, and 1 percent have a postgraduate degree.
Today, for more than one million students who are sophomores in high school, 40 percent of their parents are elementary school graduates.
What can we achieve, where can we go with this restricted workforce, with such low education levels and limited skills? How much can we increase our welfare?
Half of the working population between the ages of 25 and 34 are not high school graduates but will stay in the labor force for at least 30 more years.
This is the issue lying behind Turkey’s domestic and foreign political problems, its economic and judicial problems: The quality of its human resources.
We should grasp that this is our most urgent and important issue.