The New Turkey, New Educational Questions

Neue Türkei, neue Bildungsfragen | Yeni Türkiye, Yeni Eğitim Sorunları

Türkiye’de eğitim sistemi, 18 milyondan fazla öğrencisiyle yoğun bir gayretin ve değişimin içindedir. Açık bir şekilde görülmektedir ki, “eski Türkiye”yi “Yeni Türkiye”ye dönüştürmek için, eğitim sisteminin nicel ve nitel alanlarında son on yıldır radikal adımlar atılmaktadır. Ancak, bütün bunlar “Yeni Türkiye”ye giden yolda yeterli görülmemektedir ve hâlâ eğitim sisteminde ciddi sorunlar vardır. Eğitim bakanlığı köklü sorunları çözmek ve başarılı reformlar yapabilmek için gayret göstermektedir.


“Yeni Türkiye” ve “Yeni” Toplum Kavramları

20. yüzyılın başlarında Osmanlı Devleti parçalanıp, yeni Türkiye Cumhuriyeti kurulurken aydınlar, mevcut durumu ve geleceği tanımlamak için yazılarının başına genellikle “yeni” sıfatını koyuyorlardı. Böylece “yeni Türkiye”, “yeni toplum”, “yeni nesil”, “yeni kültür” gibi kavramsallaştırmalar yaparak geçmişl…

Categories: 3 (2015) 6

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    Riding on a wave?

    The expansion which the education system in Turkey undertook in recent years took place in relation to an overall growth. Turkey experienced quite a few phases of strong economic growth, we should not regard the recent as an exemption which took place thanks to some ‘outstanding qualities’ of ruling AK Party. The recent growth-period has already passed by and is remembered particularly for one reason as remarkable: The unstable social formation of the 1990‘s and the deep economic crisis of the early 2000‘s which can be regarded as a result of the highly clientelistic Neoliberalism which emerged in Turkey as result of the 1980 military coup. The latter finally ended the Turkish experiment with (Social) Democracy and replaced it by politics of oppressive economic liberalisation. In that context strong emphasis on Kemalist heritage was made, but had a rather instrumental nature: to create consensus for the state apparatus – a prominent actor in the transformation. Many state-fetishist rites in Turkish education system made their symbolic references to the early republican period, but were much stronger related to the missing consent for economic liberalisation which was a key-problem for Turkish policy makers after 1980. With the establishment of the order and a changing intellectual climate traditional state-fetishist rites went obsolete and removing them can be hardly regarded as an sole innovation of AK Party which felt now enabled to launch a discourse on “New Turkey”.

    Nevertheless AK Party represented in her economic politics a continuity to the established order. The party committed strongly to politics of re-regulating Turkish neoliberalism by the means of following IMF- and EU-integration politics introduced by the parties precessing her. Turkey became more predictable for investors which in course made huge investments throughout the 2000‘s supported by privatisation politics and high liquidity in global markets. General economic expansion enabled investments in infrastructure as well as in education facilities. Founding new universities strongly followed an already ongoing trend.

    Supporting or blocking qualitative change?

    Regarding the institutional design of education politics nothing has changed fundamentally from what has been introduced in the aftermath of September 12th (1980). The main heritage left by the September Junta is the Higher Council for Education (YÖK) which for example appoints the rectors of state-run universities and the deans of faculties. An university system based on the principle of scientific self-administration is not existent in Turkey. Today the president of republic, the council of ministers and the universities are appointing each one third of the members of YÖK. This guarantees a tight political control and the government is not indenting to reinforce self-administration in academic affairs, but is about to tighten centralism – as discussions on extending the authority of YÖK to private universities are indicating.
    Students and teaching staff in Turkish universities are facing increasing political and legal pressures – for example when protesting against YÖK, or against the further economisation of the Turkish education system.

    Turkey already enjoyed an university system based on principle of self administration which had been introduced in 1961 and abolished in 1980. The main reason for its abolition can be found in the effects of raising education levels which enabled to formulate critiques on society and education as a societal question. It is certainly no exaggeration to evaluate the so called Gezi revolt as Turkeys second 1968. Nevertheless “New Turkeys” strategies to govern civilian disobedience are resembling the realities of “Old Turkey”.

    Many students and members of teaching stuff have been punished hard for taking part in the Gezi-movement or taking part in other protest implies to take significant risks. This risks are not solely juridical, as assistance for students is distributed very often by clientelistic means. One very striking feature of Turkish universities is a strong presence of security forces on campus ares and they are to be replaced by ordinary police forces – this illustrates the big lack of trust.

    That revolt might have had not necessarily taken place, if societal remarks or critiques would have taken more seriously. Discussing the 4+4+4 system purely as an extension of compulsory schooling, does not mention its qualitative dimension which is still being discussed controversially: Within the new system non-secular education is given a much higher importance – unfortunately in many cases at expense of secular education opportunities. Ending discriminating practices as they were the case for veiled female students can be debated as progress, unfortunately new patterns of discrimination have been created. This adds to a situation in which societal confrontation finds a fertile ground – the extreme politicisation of religion in education politics constitutes a disadvantage for both camps.

    Overall the tendency to see in educational institutions a potential space for resistance and danger prevails one of the premises of Turkish politics – and obstacles significant qualitative changes in education. Therefore some problems of the education system shall be discussed rather in a broader context than as isolated issues to be solved by technocratically achieving EU standards or climbing upward in some OECD-rankings. A system centred around the principle of reaching high scores in multiple choice examinations hardly stimulates creativity. The people who are raising their critiques rather praising “New Turkey” might be identified as potential agents toward an qualitative transformation in education based on a culture of dispute and creativity.

  2. I believe that the educational problems are the most important ones if one compares them with the others. Turkey’s authorities try permanently to ensure economical and social development jumps, but these problems are chronically met in front of the improvement experiences as a barrier. For these reasons, this topic will not lose its importance in the near future and it will wait continuously to be solved by policy makers. From this perspective, the article has the meaning to show the direction and to ensure social peace and development for the politicians. Thanks to Professor Gündüz for the enlightening.

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