Education International
Education International

Basic Education in Turkey: unity without uniformity

published 26 October 2005 updated 26 October 2005

EI attended the delivery of the OECD's report on basic education in Turkey, between 10-11 October in Istanbul, to present the viewpoint of teachers on the draft document. EI was represented by Research Co-ordinator Guntars Catlaks.

General criticism of the draft report: It appeared from the report that the Turkish education system is highly centralised in terms of resource allocation, administration and management, and at the same time extremely segmented in terms of access and content quality and control. There are different kinds of school systems at the secondary level, resulting in highly unequal access to further/tertiary education. The selection process of students both to secondary and tertiary levels is based on competition and elitism. Likewise, the examination system appears to be unequal. Social cohesion was placed high as a priority issue of the Turkish Ministry of Education, as noted in both the draft report and its background document. The OECD Team of Experts’ main rapporteur, Aims McGuinness, referred to the Ministry's main policy task of providing “Unity without Uniformity”, suggesting that the Turkish authorities were placing too much emphasis on the second, in trying to achieve the first. EI position: The draft report made several fair recommendations, such as the homogenisation of curriculum and equal access. However, other suggestions are, in EI's opinion, unjust. Namely: * decentralisation of school management, including human resources, to school principals’ level; * allocation of parts of teachers’ salaries for their professional development; * support for the proliferation of private schools and private investment in basic education. In the discussion sessions, EI made 5 presentations on the following topics: * On overall education policy, EI insisted on the equal access to quality free public education as a human right; * On access and equity, EI pointed out the restricted use of one's mother tongue at pre-primary and primary levels; * On human resources, EI challenged the suggestion of decentralised employment as a way to improve teacher supply, highlighting the risk of increased inequalities which would follow; * On financial resources, EI opposed the suggestion to increase private funding in education, pointing to the overall low public spending on education (in terms of % share of GDP) in Turkey, which is 3.8%, in comparison with the OECD average of 5.8%; * On governance, EI opposed the recommendation to decentralise Turkey's education system, and insisted on the need to involve the teacher unions in any policy developments. The OECD Report was formally accepted as a draft by both the Turkish government and the OECD's Education Committee. Further action will imply the adjustment of the Report according to the comments, before its launch. EI supports its affiliate in Turkey: The study conducted by the OECD team of experts did not include the formal involvement of EI affiliate Egitim-Sen at the national level. Likewise, the Turkish teacher union was not invited to the presentation. EI launched an Urgent Action Appeal on 19 October to all its affiliates and partners, to prevent the closing down of Egitim Sen by the government. The teacher union was found guilty by the Turkish Supreme Court on 25 May because of a clause in its constitution which stated that the teacher union supports education in one's mother tongue. The article was removed by its constitution in the Extraordinary Congress of the organisation held on 3 July. On 27 October, the Second Labour Court is to deliver the final verdict as to whether the removal of the article would prevent the shutdown. For more information about the situation of Turkish teachers and basic education in Turkey, please contact us.