A call to Nimet Çubukçu

Turkey's first and only female prime minister to date left her post without leaving the best of impressions. Thirteen years after Tansu Çiller's term in office, another woman has been assigned to an important governmental post. Nimet Çubukçu, as the Turkish Republic's first female minister of education, is faced with the “historic opportunity” of “saving” the future of the country.

The historic decision is the allocation of an approximate

$ 20 billion budget for the field of education in the next few years.

Ziya Selçuk, as one of Turkey's leading educators and whom the Justice and Development (AK Party) government does not value enough, says that Turkey is currently faced with a “life changing” decision: “Around the beginning of the 2020s, there will be a decrease of about 3,000,200 in the number of children in the primary and middle levels of school, meaning that during those years we won't have those children. In the 2040s we will be sitting on the same population bell curve as the European Union. If we overlook these generations now, these children whom we haven't educated will create great risks for us.”

There is both risk and opportunity here as the dispensation of education to this group will allow the country to enjoy a future with generations that have been well educated.

Numbers show us that the amount of resources spent on education by the state is insufficient. However, numbers also point out another reality: When the amount of money spent on children by Turkish society is added to that allocated by the state, Turkey slides into first place among all the Organization for Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries in terms of resources set aside for education. This means that citizens are ready to make all kinds of sacrifices in order to educate their children.

But despite this and due to the glitches in the system, the general picture of education is not a pretty one. We are preparing our children for examinations, not life. Mothers, fathers, teachers, students, educators – everyone is suffering.

The solution?

Herein lies the “moment of decision” ahead for the minister, government and state.The root problem of just about every education-related issue in Turkey is the inequalities in the world of education. The source of many problems, such as examinations and dershanes -- the supplementary classes which are intended to prepare students for examinations -- can be found here. In countries that, to a large extent, have solved this problem, the difference in the quality of education is around 10 percent, while Turkey's difference in the quality of education soars to over 80 percent. This is truly a sad picture.

Turkey does not inflict the injustice it does to its children on any other demographic group.

These children don't fail to pass certain exams because they are “inadequate.” Children are paying the price for the decisions which are not being made by the government and the resources that are not made available to them. But now the risk is even greater and has reached a point where it is beginning to threaten generations. There is an obvious “decision” that needs to be made:

“The government needs to make a decision just like Ireland did. It needs to make a decision like South Korea and Chile. It needs to say, ‘The variance in the quality of education will fall below 10 percent in a way that we will integrate $15-16 billon into the [educational] system over the next three to four years, and we will delay the third bridge project for three years and give up on the idea of the Marmaray project for three years'.”

These words, once again, belong to Selçuk, but we'll sign our names to them as well. This is the real subject which needs to be brought before the National Security Council (MGK). This is the topic on which the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) needs to exert its authority. This is also the topic which the opposition must stand up for.

Minister Çubukçu is aware of the situation and knows what needs to be done. The real issue is whether she will press the government and state into taking action, as this is not a decision that can be made by a single minister. There were 60 ministers of education before her, and if she's able to make these changes, she will make a name for herself in the history of the Ministry of Education as an exceptional character.

Esteemed minister, the responsibility awaiting you is a historic one. The consequences of the endeavors you will make to this end and the administrative know-how you will display is a responsibility that is resting on your shoulders.

 

Gürkan Zengin

zengingurkan@gmail.com

OPINION