When does the school lose our children?
There have been serious advances in the schooling of the current population in elementary and secondary schools in the past years.
First, in 1997, compulsory education became eight years. Thus, those who used to finish elementary school of five years and did not continue were at least obliged to graduate from what used to be called middle school.
If the eight-year compulsory education had been introduced in the 1970s, we be living in a much different and a much richer country.
The eight-year compulsory education has made the schooling rate before high school very close to 100 percent. However, we were losing 30 of the 100 students while going into high school. In other words, out of 100 middle school graduates, only 70 of them continued in high school.
Later, another regulation was introduced that separated the education system into three parts of four years, but making the total of 12 years compulsory. There are quite a number of criticisms to this system, but raising the compulsory education from eight years to 12 years has raised our hopes to win the 30 kids we are losing in the passage to high school.
When viewed from the entire population of Turkey and keeping in mind that our average education period is 6.5 years, in other words, our average is dropping out from middle school grade two, we can see that the 12-year compulsory education will undoubtedly make a serious contribution to the human quality of our country.
However, when the regulation known as four plus four plus four was introduced, the biggest mistake was pulling down the age of starting school. This situation would be the end of pre-school education, which Turkey had greatly invested into in the past.
As a matter of fact, we can see it better today, after the practice started. The level of schooling in pre-school education had reached 40 percent in a short time, but these gains were not able to be maintained, unfortunately after the introduction of the new system. This mistake was compensated for, to a certain extent, with the relaxation of the practice by the Education Ministry, but the damage done to pre-schooling was not reversed. When the figures are reviewed, it can be seen that the schooling rate in pre-school education in Turkey has begun a decreasing trend with the new law. This is a serious development.
In fact, we need to have all of our children from 48 months to 66 months in preschool education.
We still cannot reach more than half of our preschool children. Well, what about later? How many of the children can we access to go to school? How many years do they go to school?
Because it is compulsory, everybody should be at school from ages 6 to 18, for 12 years; but, we are losing our children somewhere along the way. They drop out of school.
In 2012-13 academic year, the schooling rate at the elementary school level was 98.9 percent; the next year, this figure went up to 99.6 percent, we can say almost 100 percent.
However, in middle schools, in other words, as of fifth grade, while the schooling rate was 93.1 percent in 2012-13, the next year, this rate only went up to 94.5 percent.
We lost six of our 100 children while passing from fourth grade to fifth grade. There are regional variations, for example in Gümüşhane, Çankırı and Hakkâri, we lose 12 out of 100 children at fifth grade.
Ninth grade is also a milestone, the first year of high school, the year in which dropping out and failures peak. Statistics show that 16.8 percent of ninth graders fail the grade, whereas this figure was at 2 percent in following years. Also, 41 percent of students not attending school are in this grade.
Obviously, students in this grade deserve special attention.