Let’s occupy ourselves with education
That is why I think we need to focus on education and discuss problems and reforms. I have compiled my suggestions for education reforms under seven headlines:
Decision-making practice based on data
Turkey has numerous problems with education. However, I think the most important one is the fact that our reforms are not data-based. I think decisions must be based on data in all steps, from the identification of problems to the search for solutions, from competing with alternative solutions to the activity analysis of every single solution.
Here, I am not talking about applying all extreme ideas to the system under the name of reform. I am talking about a reform understanding in which different suggestions for solutions compete with each other in a pilot scheme, and only the ones whose success has been proven are applied to the system.
Pre-school educational campaign
One of the common research findings regarding education is that pre-school education is an investment that has the highest return in education. Unfortunately, this is also a problematic field in Turkey, which ranks the lowest among EU member states for participation in pre-school education.
Making high quality pre-school education obligatory across Turkey will result in considerably positive results, which must be a priority in educational reforms in the country.
In order to reach this goal, we need to invest significantly in all areas, from developing curriculum for pre-school education to training teachers.
Teaching must be professional
Another important factor impacting success in schools is the quality of teachers. Not the building, resources or curriculum, but teachers! Indeed, it is a key factor in Finland’s success in education. Any investment is in vain if the education of teachers are not considered and their socioeconomic situations are not improved.
Flexibility in central management
Turkey has the most central system in education in terms of resources and determining curriculum among the countries listed in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
School managers and teachers stand as decision-makers in many fields in the education systems of countries that rank top in the PISA, such as Japan, South Korea, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
In Turkey, it is not possible for school administrations to overcome local problems without receiving the authorization of ministerial authorities.
Small classrooms for disadvantaged children
Turkey is the only country among the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries with a system in which classrooms are more crowded in schools where poor children are generally educated.
Turkey must reduce the class size in classrooms where socioeconomically disadvantaged children are educated, as many OECD countries have done.
A worrying situation in Turkey in terms of the future of science, technology and innovation is that we almost completely lack students who have outstanding performance in science and math.
However, these are the key fields for a knowledge economy. We need to review the number and quality of our schools, which provide advanced education in these fields.
We urgently need to reform the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in our country as other countries around the world have done.
Problem-solving skills instead of memorization
Our national examinations serve as the magnet of our education system, which unfortunately drags the whole system into a memorization oriented one. These exams have multiple-choice questions, are not based on any basic skills and only measure memorization skills. We need to have exams that measure problem-solving skills instead of memorization.