Prep schools: Trying to eliminate the result instead of the cause
İSMET BERKANActually, every minute that the private prep schools (dershane) remain open, it should be a matter of shame for the Ministry of Education and the Republic of Turkey. These courses are a sector complementary to scoring well in an exam.
For this reason, the existence of these private prep schools is the confession of our inability to teach our children the necessary skills in our schools and to give them adequate education. In short, the system that generates these private courses is the incompetency of our education system.
The issue can be discussed by separating it into two. The first one is about those private prep schools that children attend when they are battling to enter an “elite” high school after they graduate from middle school.
Our Education Ministry does not even target an egalitarian education. It is not among the medium and long-term targets of the ministry to eliminate the level difference among middle schools, end the perception of an “elite” high school, and to make all high schools similarly “elite.” When there is no such target, then it is meaningless to get angry at the rise of a sector that claims it has the entry ticket to “elite” schools. That sector is present as a result of a failure.
The second part of the issue is that the private prep schools claim to enable high school graduates enter universities. Imagine that even the “elite” high schools of the system cannot give the guarantee for their students to get enough scores in the university entrance examination without the help of private courses. As a matter of fact, the biggest group of customers of the sector are the students of these “elite” high schools.
There are a few reasons why this is so. The first and the biggest reason is the shortage of the number of our universities. Only 40 percent of the population goes to university. The second reason is that the number of “elite” universities and departments are limited. Many people compete to enter these schools.
The third and maybe the most rooted reason is the most complicated one, because it causes a vicious circle: Because the vacancies in the universities are less than the number of high school graduates, they need to be selected and the entrance examination is designed especially for this selection. As this selection business becomes serious (here, it has always been serious), then the examination, instead of qualifying the knowledge of the student, has turned into “something” that tries to mislead the student with various tricks. While meeting such a strange need, the test itself becomes the subject of a secondary education to learn the test (the tricks, etc.)
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been saying for many years, “We will close these prep schools.” When the causes that I have detailed remain, I don’t know what good will come out of closing these prep courses today.
The only thing I know is this: Dealing with the results instead of the reasons is only good for a short-term delusion.
İsmet Berkan is a columnist for daily Hürriyet, in which this abridged piece was published on Nov. 15. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.