The steps a country takes in education and, their results and consequences, affect more than just the current situation, because its outcomes, which are critical, continue to influence the public for years to come.
Stability is a main anchor for education policy. An unhinged educational system that changes under every Minister of Education, is bound to make us suffer.
In order to understand the main reasons Turkey has made regarding education, we have to go back to Village Institutes. The government at the time was stuck between the USSR’s system under Stalin, and the USA, and it ended up closing down Village Institutes to appease the USA. This, despite the fact that four new teacher’s training schools were open during the Minister of Education, Mustafa Necati’s period, and they all turned out to be very successful yielding very positive results. In fact, all Village Institutes made leaps of progress with Atatürk’s reforms in 1935. They graduated 6,875 teachers out of which 1398 were women. Later on, during 1940-1954 period a further 17341 teachers were educated at Village Institutions. 213 people alone graduated from Hasanoglan High Village Institution and 1,599 people became health workers.
After Atatürk passed away, and Ismet Inonu was left in charge, USA requested his Five-Year Development Plan to be cancelled, and the Village Institutions shut down, with fears of Soviet influence on them. They said this program and the education system closely resembled the USSR’s. Stalin’s crippling sanctions on Turkey arrived shortly afterwards. Turkey stopped registering students to the high-quality education provided by Hasanoglan High Village Institutions, and instead Religious Vocational High Schools began popping up everywhere in 1946. Turkey, stuck between the pressures from Stalin and the sanctions from the USA, sent its Secret Service to Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia’s squirarchy who agreed that the institutions were educating communists. After these informal discussions and politicians who did not stand up to pressure, Ankara Hasanoglan High Village Institutions were closed down on 27th of April 1947. 21 more Village Institutions in Anatolia were made nonfunctional. This was the first hit the National Education System of the Republic of Turkey took. I will go deeper into this subject in a later article.
Academicians from most Universities agree that the situation has gotten desperately worse from the times of Village Institutions to today. They all unanimously agree that students have become less and less successful and less sophisticated since then, and they also say that the level of education is falling with every passing day.
The world, in contrast, kept developing its education system day by day. Korea, for example, who had a devastating war between 1950-1953 had two universities listed in the world’s top 100: Seoul International University, was the 50th, and High Science and Technology Institution was the 52nd. Turkey’s only university on the list was the Middle East Technic University as the 85th.
If we look at the reforms that take place in our time, we notice that almost every succeeding Minister of Education updated the Education policy over their predecessor, causing extreme instability in Turkey’s national education levels. Each new generation scores lower on the Educational Level rankings. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has 72 members and Turkey is the 50th one, barely finding a place there. Turkey’s mathematics performance levels are close to those of UAE, Chile, Moldova, Uruguay, Montenegro, Trinidad &Tobago, Thailand and Albania. When it comes to reading performance among OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, Canada and Finland have the top performance, while Turkey and Mexico are at the bottom. Are these youngsters who are sinking lower and lower in the international ranking systems, be able to represent us and help us get back on our feet economically? There is a widening gap between technological developments and dissimilarity in education levels worldwide. Youth with a good education will prevail.
The education system of the country should not be shaped by politics. On June 17, 2013, the Minister of Energy, Mr. Taner Yildiz, made an unfortunate comment: “Whenever the education level goes up, our votes go down.” But the level of education has to independently rise up as much as it can with no political connotations. Current ruling party in power, is considering opening more and more low-grade universities, meanwhile not being able to stop the mass unemployment. The government is splitting up the rooted old universities, benefitting the newer ones. They are under the wrong assumption that the sheer number of universities is an indicator of a country’s educational achievements. That is a very wrong assumption. The deep-rooted history and education of the country show us that these old universities are estimable. I hope we will see our political actors can regain their consciousness as soon as possible. We will know we are successful when our educational system is free of political will and serve the intellect of new generations to come.