Where all the teachers have master’s degrees

Where all the teachers have master’s degrees

In Turkey, we have a total of 17.3 million students, and there are 832,000 teachers in total in state and private schools, from kindergarten to high school. 

In 2013 alone, exactly 40,000 teachers were appointed. Nearly 400,000 teachers have been recruited in the past 10 years. 

In order to be a teacher, one needs to graduate from specific departments of universities and then score a certain number of points on the Public Personnel Selection Examination (KPSS). 

When these requirements are met, then you expect the Education Ministry to create vacancies and appoint you. The phrase “non-appointed teacher” comes from this; even though the candidate has scored adequate points on the KPSS, his or her name has not been drawn in the lottery because there are too many applications.

The Education Ministry is an administrative structure trying to manage 17 million students, recruit 832,000 teachers from one center and then place them among provinces and districts. More than half of the workload of the ministry is recruiting, appointing and placing. 

The ministry has a “permanent staff” system and regulation, and legislation associated with that; even if you dedicated your entire life to it, you wouldn’t be able to learn it all. We have an incredibly complicated regulation and legislation system to appoint and place 832,000 people in the most just way possible. 

Whereas, just as Alexander the Great cut the Gordian Knot, we can also solve this giant issue with one move. We could hand over all the teachers to the municipality of the province or the district in which they reside or work. We can also direct the relevant funding to that municipality and authorize local governments on teacher recruitments. Likewise, school buildings could also be handed over to municipalities and their maintenance funds in the general budget could be passed on to municipalities.
We have no other choice but to localize the technical management of education. Each day we do not do this, we are losing time. It will only be possible to focus on the content and the quality of education at the central level by doing this. 

The standard of recruitment of teachers can be set by the Education Ministry; actually it should be set by them, as today. However, “non-appointed teachers” who meet these requirements should look for a job for themselves by touring different cities. 

Without solving this technical administration issue, we cannot actually do anything to increase the quality of our teachers. 

The first thing we should do about the quality of teachers is to elevate the reputation of the profession. We can do this by paying a higher salary and showing them a better career. Then, the best in society would want to become teachers. The 2,000 Turkish Liras, as of next year, as a starting salary is not very encouraging. 

Another thing we should do to upgrade the profession is by first starting with existing teachers, with a proper incentive system, allowing all teachers in the system to do a post-graduate degree in their own fields. 

We can always require a post-graduate degree for new recruitments and introduce conditions such as “for a higher salary, earn a postgraduate degree in a maximum six years” for existing teachers. 

Smart boards and the FATİH project are very good undertakings, and they are rapidly being implemented. But we have to think here whether it would have been more correct to allocate the gigantic funds we are spending for technology on the training of teachers and the quality of teachers.
İsmet Berkan is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Nov 29. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.