Brain drain to the West

Brain drain to the West

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said the Islamic world “is losing its brightest brains to the West.”
Erdoğan emphasized the importance of education when speaking in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, where he opened the “Science and Technology Summit” of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

He stressed that 55 percent of the Islamic world is illiterate and complained about the brain drain.
The president’s sensitivity is of course gratifying, but we must also look at the situation in Turkey.

Turkey’s situation

Investments for education, the number of schools and universities, and the allocation to research and development from the national income have increased during the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) rule. Alongside these quantitative developments, however, we should also see the dire truth.

In terms of scientific publications, Iran, a country which had been much behind Turkey in the past, first caught up with Turkey in 2010, then overtook Turkey.

According to the Times Higher Education, our universities are losing ground in world university rankings.

 Amongst the 30,000 universities in the world, the number of our universities ranking in the top 1000 has fallen from 18 to eight, while four of our universities previously in the top 350 were all discarded from the list of top 350 universities.

We have never been quite successful in secondary education, according to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA); and regarding secondary education quality, we have fallen even further from 91st in 2008 to 105th in 2017.

University and politics

What can be the reason behind our failure in the competition for quality education despite the increase in money allocated to education? This is an enormous problem that should be analyzed and discussed by experts.

I hope the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) prepares an academic report on how the successful universities in the world are being administered. Here is an already existing academic opinion: Former rector of İnönü University, Professor Cemil Çelik, was a successful administrator and has made the university a center of medicine that competed with Europe. In his article titled “Does the University Have an Ideological Identity?” he explains how a political and ideological atmosphere damages science. In an article published in daily Karar on Aug. 15, he describes the current situation as: “We are all going to live and see how repeating the mistakes and ideological obsessions of the past by saying, ‘Now it’s our turn,’ does not help us produce scientific outputs.” 

An academic article written today can be published in scientific journals roughly three years later. I am worried that we can further fall in scientific indices in a few years due to the environment generated by the state of emergency. Furthermore, the desire of emigrating to the West is a tendency of which we frequently hear.

Let’s talk about science

Numerous scientific researches indicate that “sources” are very important yet not enough in terms of the administration style required for universities seeking success. University administrations must be fully autonomous, and there must be an atmosphere of freedom in universities.

Political intervention and any kind of ideological passion spoil this atmosphere. This was the case in our country yesterday, as it is today.

Even the principals of elementary schools were replaced by the Education Ministry. Were the appointments done in accordance with the criterion of merit? If so, then why did we fall to 105th place?

We are all proud of Professor Aziz Sancar. When he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, he expressed his sadness over how his ideology was the issue of interest in Turkey rather than his career. “I am not turning on the TV in Turkey, there are quarrels and rumbles every day,” Sancar said on May 28, 2016.

Would this political atmosphere provide the youth with the motivation to conduct scientific research or have confidence in their universities? Ideology and quarrels should be levelled down in the agenda of politics, while education and science should be prioritized.