Today, more than 19 million students study in primary and secondary educational institutions in Turkey. The number of teachers in our country has exceeded one million. However, official reports and statistics show that the education system in Turkey is facing many challenges. On the other hand, data published by international organizations such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reveal these problems. Although the Ministry of National Education (MEB), which comes to the fore with frequent ministerial and political changes, carries out various studies and projects in the field of education, many authorities agree that education in Turkey is of insufficient quality. In other words, the education system in Turkey cannot reach the desired standards.

But why? What problems does the education system in Turkey have? Why can’t these problems be solved? Gülseven Ozkan had an in-depth interview with Selçuk Pehlivanoğlu, President of the Turkish Education Association for Independent Turkish Language, in which she discussed the education system and its problems. Let’s look at the details together…

President of the Turkish Education Association Selçuk Pehlivanoğlu says there is a “quality” problem in the national education system.

Of course, there are various factors that cause this quality problem. However, it can be noted that there are many problems that education in Turkey faces in various fields. Pehlivanoglu believes that the problems in the education system can be grouped under some main headings.

1. Unsustainable education policy

Selçuk Pehlivanoğlu, president of the Turkish Education Association, believes that unsustainable education policy is an extremely important issue. Pehlivanoglu explained this situation, “We don’t have a national education policy. The education system, which changes from minister to minister, from the head of the university (YÖK) to the head of the YÖK, does not hold seams.” expresses how.

Pehlivanoğlu states that the field of education must be judged from a political standpoint and that Turkey urgently needs a national education program. To do this, it is necessary to abandon the constantly changing approaches and practices in education, and to implement long-term plans that do not depend on people who will not change with people.

2. Exams

According to Pehlivanoglu, exams are the most important problem in our education system. Because exams are no longer a natural part of the learning process! Pehlivanoglu states that the entire education system is limited to the ranking exam, and the understanding of “education for the exam” has engulfed the entire system. So much so that many high school students attend an open high school “so as not to waste time in school and to better prepare for exams.”

Seeing exams as more important than education is, of course, a great harm to the education system. For this reason, schools cease to be institutions where students receive life skills in addition to education, and turn into buildings where the necessary documents for entrance examinations are issued …

3. Inequality of opportunity

Inequality of opportunity in education is one of the problems that can be faced all over the world. However, in developing countries such as Turkey, where exams are considered the dominant element in the education system, the student gap has widened even further! Selçuk Pehlivanoğlu, president of the Turkish Education Association, provides clear examples in this regard. Accordingly, the biggest factor in student success on the High School Entry System (LGS) exams is the socioeconomic level of the school and the student.

Between students whose parents have primary education and those whose parents have postgraduate education, there is a difference of 120 points in favor of the representatives of the second group. International reports also show that the highest performing students in Turkey come from families of high socioeconomic status.

4. Quality problems

education system

Pehlivanoglu emphasizes that there have been positive developments in terms of quality in the Turkish education system recently. For example, significant improvements are seen in areas such as enrollment rates or class sizes. However, according to Pehlivanoglu, the same cannot be said about the quality of the education system. Studies show that one in seven children who graduate from elementary school cannot understand even a simple read text.

Although primary and secondary schools have 5 hours of math lessons per week, approximately 85,000 students enrolled in LGS in 2022 failed to answer a single math question correctly. The number of candidates who did not have a single grid on the 2022 University Examination (YKS) Basic Proficiency Test (TYT) was 97,000. Pehlivanoglu states that students who have completed the 12 years of compulsory education in our country can only have a level of education equal to 9 years of education.

5. Failure to provide students with basic skills

education system

A significant proportion of students who received primary and secondary education in Turkey do not understand the text they read and have difficulty performing four tasks. In other words, there are serious problems in obtaining basic skills for students.

However, almost all students in countries such as Austria, Singapore, Korea and Japan, who have attracted attention for their educational achievements in recent years, are performing above the basic vocational level. Pehlivanoglu claims that 37 percent of students in Turkey lack basic skills in math, 26 percent in reading, and 25 percent in science.

6. Dysfunction of education when going to work in Turkey

Students in Turkey are skeptical about the contribution of the school, and therefore education, to their future lives. Universities are seen as a way to delay unemployment. Although there are dozens of university graduates, the unemployment rate among these graduates is quite high. According to OECD reports, Turkey is the OECD country with the lowest employment rate among secondary and higher education graduates. On the other hand, the employment rate for people aged 24-64 who do not even have a secondary education is 50 percent, the employment rate for high school graduates is 59 percent, and the employment rate for university graduates is 72 percent.

In other words, increasing a person’s education level in Turkey does not significantly increase the likelihood of future employment. In parallel, 59.9% of the Turkish population aged 18-24 do not receive education. Only 27.7% of this uneducated population is employed in any job.

7. The position of teachers in the education system

education system

According to Pehlivanoglu, the point reached by the education system in Turkey has seriously undermined the position and reputation of teachers in the system. The value attributed to a teacher today is directly proportional to the number of questions asked in that teacher’s thread in exams. Today, teaching is mechanically reduced to the transfer of information.

For this reason, educators should apply teaching methods where more information can be conveyed to students in a shorter time. As a result, students interrupt the processes of comprehending information and enjoying learning. Pehlivanoglu emphasizes that the status and reputation of teaching must be restored.

8. Abuse of resources

education system

Pehlivanoglu believes that Turkey has enough resources to improve the education system. In fact, a significant part of the state budget is allocated annually to education. However, there are big problems in the efficient use of these resources. Here, in order to eliminate the problems in the field of education in our country, these resources must be used effectively.

9. Changes in teacher training processes

Selçuk Pehlivanoglu states that educational institutions in our country must be reprogrammed in accordance with the conditions of the era. He argues that in today’s Turkey there is no clear answer to the question “what teacher do we want to train”. This situation represents a significant obstacle to the creation of an effective teacher training model.

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