education in Turkey

Wednesday 28 November, 2012

Batuhan Aydagul was invited to speak @ the 6th annual Patricia Blunt Koldyke lecture  about TURKISH EDUCATION: INNOVATION AND PARTICIPATION.  Aydagul is the coordinator & a board member of the Education Reform Initiative in Istanbul, Turkey.  He earned a master’s degree in international education administration & policy analysis from Stanford University.  He also learned best practices @ Arthur Andersen’s training center in St. Charles years ago.  His experience @ Stanford led him to work in educational development in Africa, in Liberia specifically.

Batuhan’s view of education is to liberate your imagination.  Education is in his blood-his grandfather & mother worked in education as well.  After graduating from Stanford, he wanted to open a think-tank.  Turkey has a demographic gift that can be enabled by education, but it needs western quality.  The problem is education, as it was set-up in 2003, is in the domain of the public sector.  There are numerous legislative & party issues as the people question decision-makers/politicians intentions.  They’ve started curriculum reform with more engagement from stakeholders.  Now critical thinkers are questioning their dogma & are opposed to working together.  Some have formed coalitions for advocacy & have partnered with business for technical education.  A strong bureaucratic culture gives the public a voice in education.  Policy advocacy is not a 0-sum game because with objective information, it’s not a win or lose situation.

Turkey has a number of challenges, including health, transportation, & education.  There is much inequality between schools, geographies, and a rural/urban divide.  There are quality issues-thank goodness for Mexico, keeping Turkey from the bottom.  Parliment passed & implemented 1 of the worst laws in the best manner possible & Batuhan took it personally.  He organized a Best Practices Conference to which groups drove all night to attend so that they could learn from & learn to  trust their peers.  International recognition helps, provides motivation & encouragement, & is humbling.  He received warm welcomes @ public schools.  Turks need to create a dialogue about these topics, but they aren’t taught to discuss such things.  They don’t know how to express disagreement-teachers must moderate these discussions.  They need innovation to try to live up the the expectations of his predecessors.


  • In rural areas, girls only have a 1% chance of attending high school, while boys have only a 17% chance.
  • Differences in languages, incomes, & many others must be resolved.  If students start in 1st grade without Turkish, it creates big problems later on.  It should be a bilingual system, but design varies.
  • Politicians want to remove private courses for entrance exams so that there are opportunities for those who don’t qualify for a university education.
  • They are trying to enhance opportunities for women to attend school by promoting vocational schools, building dorms for women so some can study away from home, expanding cash transfer systems, & changing prevailing attitudes against women, particularly by conservative fathers.
  • Although Turkish schools use many international benchmarks & indicators to measure critical thinking, they have little impact because they have neglected teacher development.
  • There are many barriers to dialogue on educational issues:  the constitution is very strict on language, religion plays a role too, many side with ideology rather than enter into a discussion, & differences have been disregarded after 90 years as a republic.
  • The EU has left the countries autonomous regarding education, while bringing up the issues of certifications & rights.
  • The focus in Turkey is on the teachers & developing public/private partnerships which provide feedback, engage principals, lessen curricula that are too demanding, & encourage investment in sustainable peer learning.
  • Private schools in Turkey are funded by & for the 3% most wealthy, & there is little transfer between public & private schools.

I had an opportunity to teach in Turkey, but had to turn it down because the bureaucracy slowed things down so much that they were only able to arrange the paperwork for work visas etc. for the 2nd semester rather than the whole school year.  Their slowness cost me, but I still hope to teach there @ some point in the future.

Sorry this is too late for Turkey Day.


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