Why 2014 was a 'miserable' year for Turkey's education system
In İstanbul, many students from first to fourth grade could not even start the educational year due to the shortage of teachers.
Although Education Minister Nabi Avcı claimed that a great deal has been achieved in the education system in 2014 during a speech he delivered on Nov. 24, Teachers' Day, the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) education policies were at the center of swirling debates throughout the year because the education system lost its credibility in the eyes of students, parents and educators following arbitrary political changes made to it.
The large number of unemployed teachers waiting to be appointed to state schools by the ministry, the failure of the Transition from Primary to Secondary Education (TEOG) Exam-based enrollment system, the government's frequent interference with the aim to dominate the education system in line with a political Islamist agenda, and allegations of favoritism and discrimination in choosing school principals are only some of the major problems in the education sector.
Some 5.5 million students started the 2014-2015 school year on Sept. 17 across Turkey, exposing a string of problems stemming from a shortage of teachers, to overcrowded classrooms and the failure to appoint principals, as well as uncertainties concerning enrollment.
In İstanbul, many students from first to fourth grade could not even start the educational year due to the shortage of teachers. School principals had to announce which classes did not have teachers during the opening ceremonies at the schools. Consequently, more than 500,000 students could not start their classes.
Though the Ministry of Education had announced that it planned to appoint 40,000 prospective teachers in 2014, no appointments were made because they depend on a bill that has not been passed by Parliament.
The number of unassigned teachers increased by 270,000 over the last 10 years to total approximately 330,000, surpassing the population of Iceland. Thousands of teachers are waiting to be appointed to a post by the Ministry of Education; many object to temporary contracts and demand permanent appointments.
Gov't appointed hundreds of school principals from pro-gov't unions
Principals who had been in their posts for four years or more were evaluated between the months of August and October, across Turkey. Their performances were evaluated based on two different scores: one arrived at by staff from within the school and the other given by regional directorates of education. Approximately 7,000 principals out of 16,000 who had worked in their posts for at least four years were dismissed, as they failed to score at or above 75.
Although many of these principals received full scores from their peers in the intra-school evaluation, they did poorly in the evaluation of the regional administration, which led to speculations of favoritism and discrimination. While members of the pro-government Education Personnel Labor Union (Eğitim Bir-Sen) scored high, nearly all the members of unions not affiliated with the government were unable to pass the 75-point threshold.
Speaking to Today's Zaman on Monday, İsmail Koncuk, chairman of the Turkish Education Personnel Union (Türk Eğitim-Sen), stated that 76,000 educators, including school principals and teachers, were either removed from their posts or reassigned across Turkey throughout 2014.
Interviews conducted by the Ministry of Education between Oct. 16 and 26 for the post of school principal were a disappointment to many candidates as the interviews were concluded in favor of those who support the government, according to Osman Bahçe, chairman of the Union of Active Educators (Aktif Eğitim-Sen). Bahçe claimed that the lists of names of teachers to be appointed as public school principals had already been drawn up before the interviews.
In the Central Anatolian province of Eskişehir, 100 out of 110 newly appointed principals were chosen from Eğitim Bir-Sen, which is known for its staunch pro-government stance. According to the lists released by the ministry, 100 of the educators who were assigned as principals are members of the pro-government Eğitim Bir-Sen, while only seven are from Türk Eğitim-Sen and the remaining three do not belong to any union.
Meanwhile, in Bursa, 286 of 482 school principals were dismissed, which the unionists called a purge. In İstanbul alone, 1,200 schools had to continue the semester without principals. The Ministry of Education removed 7,000 principals from office following a directive limiting the term in office for the position to four years. But most schools are yet to appoint new principals.
TEOG turns into ordeal for students, families
The shortage of teachers is not the only problem that is negatively affecting the new education year. A newly introduced enrollment system based on scores from the Transition from Primary to Secondary Education (TEOG) exam held in June has turned into a disaster, as students were automatically enrolled in imam-hatip high schools, which provide Islamic religious education, prompting outrage among some Alevis and Armenians, as well as Sunnis. The system even assigned some students to schools far from their places of residence.
All eighth-grade students who want to enroll in high school must take the TEOG exam, forcing them to make a choice between two options if they fail to get a high score on the exam: vocational schools or imam-hatip schools. The AK Party government is frequently criticized for trying to dominate the education system in line with a political Islamist agenda, aiming to shape schools -- especially high schools -- because it has limited the alternatives available to students who complete secondary school, pushing them to attend imam-hatip high schools.
Moreover, hundreds of thousands of schools across Turkey are forced to employ a two-part teaching system -- half of the students attend classes in the morning, while the other half study in the afternoon, because of overpopulation.
Economic concerns continue to be on agenda of educators in 2014
Turkey continued in 2014 to lag behind member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), with teachers in the European Union receiving between $40,000 and $75,000 annually while a Turkish teacher makes between $15,000 and $18,000 a year.
A recent survey conducted by Türk Eğitim-Sen between Nov. 5 and 19 revealed that 69 percent of teachers are ready to quit their jobs while 95.1 percent find Education Minister Avcı ineffective. A full 62.1 percent of survey participants live in rented apartments and 73.5 percent of respondents have credit card debt. Noting that economic problems have negatively affected their family lives, 38.4 percent of teachers surveyed think they are unable to take good care of their families.
In addition, according to a 2014 report released by the OECD, although teachers in Turkey work more than their colleagues in Europe, they are paid almost 40 percent less. While the average working hours in OECD countries were calculated at 1,725 annually, the figure is 1,924 in Turkey.
- US universities to lose over $5M as Saudi students stay away after mistreatment
- Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade, and Handicrafts fights nationwide unemployment levels
- Here are the top 20 most in demand MENA employers, according to LinkedIn
- Thomson Reuters annual cost of compliance survey shows regulatory fatigue, resource challenges and personal liability to increase throughout 2015
- Dulsco conducted recycling awareness campaign with students of Al Khansaa
- 8-year-old Yemeni child dies at hands of 40-year-old husband on wedding night
- The miserable occupation on a miserable morning
- Education system fails Jordan: No students from 50 schools pass summer secondary exams
- Turkey purges entire education sector
- Time to learn the lesson: why Saudi Arabia needs to rethink its investments in education