The sought after exam system is finally found, but...

The sought after exam system is finally found, but...

Over the past few days I am sure you’ve seen in many newspapers, including daily Hurriyet, about the results of the new Transition from Primary to Secondary Education (TEOG) exams.

The news articles focus on two important points: (1) Children who’ve been enrolled at schools in a city far from their residence (up to 120 kilometers in some cases); (2) Children who’ve been enrolled at imam hatip schools (religious vocational schools) against their will.

I will speak about these two points, but from what I’ve seen, we’ve been shying away from giving the same amount of energy to the subject of our educational system in general, as well as this new entrance system and its advantages/disadvantages.

Let me be clear: If we are insisting on managing the enrollment of over a million students from all over Turkey from one center with a supposed sense of “equality,” it seems like Turkey has finally found the exam system it’s been searching for.

Because it wasn’t only a portion of students that took the TEOG, but all incoming high school students, the exam questions were based on the principle text books that all students used. In a sense, the TEOG replaced the two written examinations the students normally took.

This practice also decreased the students’ need for “dershane” (private additional schooling) and even if students still went to a dershane, they undertook it to study the information given to them in school lessons and not to practice test writing.

But, like I said in the beginning: If we believe managing all topics, including calculating, grading, and giving class grades is best done through a single computer touch, the TEOG is a successful system.
I want to re-stress an appeal I made months ago: The Education Ministry must immediately release information about the TEOG so they may be analyzed by independent education researchers.
Many important conclusions will be drawn from these independent observers, but one I find particularly concerning: The lowest performing schools in Turkey.

The Education Ministry must announce who “The lowest performing 1,000 middle-schools in Turkey” are and promise the public that “these schools will not remain on this list next year.”

If we can save a thousand schools each year from the “lowest performing” list, in 5-6 years, we can substantially reduce the academic gap between the best and worst schools in Turkey.

Real equality is not for every job to be done from Ankara; real equality can be facilitated by decreasing the academic gap between our different graduates to below 20 percent.

The meaning of having a gap of less than 20 percent between “the best” and “the worst” is this: When the best achieves a grade of 100, the worst must achieve no lower than 80.

In how many schools do students with a grade of 0 sit next to another who gets 100?

One of the most striking results the TEOG has already shared with the Education Ministry, which we can’t see as it hasn’t yet been shared with the public, is this: In how many classrooms in Turkey does a student who scored between 0 to 30 in a mathematics test, study with a student who scored a 100?
What we call the equality of education starts in the classroom. If a student who scored 0 studies with another who scored a 100, that classroom’s teacher must be questioned.  

How is it that the teacher who can teach, who can get through to the student who scores a 100, fails in teaching anything to the student who scores 0,how is it that they couldn’t get through to them?
The real problems in our education system are microscopic, and until they are solved, nothing will be solved at the “macro” level.

If only the government had published these “microscopic” results, we could’ve engaged in a more productive public debate. It’s still not too late to have this debate.

The question of the students who’ve been placed in far-away schools and in Imam hatip’s
The ministry announced nothing on this matter, but after being criticized in newspapers, it finally announced the number of students who enrolled in schools far-away and imam hatip schools against their will.

According to the announcement published on the ministry’s website, the number of children that were placed at schools in cities far from their residence was 9,802. The ministry said these children were mostly the ones that didn’t have a preference where they enrolled. (For example, the son of journalist Fatih Altaylı of Habertürk is in this group. Altaylı lives in Kemerburgaz and in his article, he said his daughter was placed in a school 94 kilometers away from where they live. But Altaylı’s child didn’t opt for this, as she wanted to continue on at the private school she was enrolled in.)

The numbers provided by the ministry have the purpose of making the problem look smaller than it was reflected in the public, because we are talking about over 1 million students.

But still, if this situation is true for even one student who won’t be attending a private school, it should be accepted as a problem and must be solved.

The numbers the ministry announced for the students who enrolled in imam hatip schools is also very interesting. According to the ministry, 209 students were placed in imam hatip programs against their will, as they were placed in multi-programmed high schools.

Also, the ministry says another 45 children were placed in imam hatip schools, as their scores were too low to be placed in the schools they chose.

I will repeat the same thing here: The ministry is trying say this topic, which has been the center of public discussion over the last few days, is a “small” matter, but if even one person was placed in a school that they didn’t want to attend, this is a problem and it must be corrected.