"OUR STARTING POINT IS TO OPEN ALL SCHOOLS"Minister of National Education Ziya Selçuk answered the questions of star.com.tr columnist Halime Kökçe. Minister Selçuk made comments about the pandemic and face to face education and opening schools on February 15. Noting that the Ministry has prepared various different scenarios about face to face education, Minister Selçuk said, "We will take steps by considering various different factors such as prioritizing the education of younger children or students who will enter examinations for higher education institutions or internship of vocational high school students. But our starting point is opening face to face education for all students. If we had to make restrictions or face a serious problem, then we will consider what we can do within the allowed limits."
Here are the excerpts from the interview of Minister of National Education Ziya Selçuk with star.com.tr columnist Halime Kökçe:
Students and teachers are expecting good news; when will schools and training courses open?
Of course, we have plans. We are going through a very dynamic process and we have to think of various different scenarios. This is an issue that requires the consensus of a number of ministries, offices and agencies.
Will schools open after the end of semester holiday?
There is still time until February 15. I believe that measures taken by our government as a part of fight against the pandemic and vaccination will lead to a more positive process. We wish to open all schools after the end of semester holiday. Of course, there are opposing ideas especially in the social media. But we will decide according to scientific methodology.
Are you planning a gradual opening or will you open all schools after February 15?
We will decide on the issue by considering variables such as prioritizing younger students or students who will enter higher education institutions exams or internship of vocational school students. But our starting point is to open all schools.
How do you make plans, what can you tell us about your decision-making mechanisms?
No matter which scenario we implement, no matter what the situation is, we always consult with an academic committee made up more than 20 experts and academicians. We also have constant contacts with provincial directors of education.
EXAM DATES AND CIRRICULUM WON'T CHANGE
There are exams for entering high school and university institutions. Students who will enter these exams are the ones who were affected most due to pandemic and have high level anxiety. Do you consider postponing these exams?
We are planning to hold the exams at the date we set earlier. However, the course of the pandemic may force us to reconsider this date. Right now, it is not possible to say anything about postponement of exams which are set for June. It is not possible to guess what will happen in June. Last year, the entire world was unprepared for such a pandemic. Last year, we did not have EBA TV channel and the capacity of EBA online platform was not high. At the beginning of the pandemic, our live lesson capacity on EBA was limited with 100 thousand students. There were no support centers, mobile support vehicles and online textbooks and sources because there was the school.
EBA IS NUMBER ONE IN THE WORLD
How is our online lesson capacity?
We have approximately 18 million students and we were aware that approximately 1.5 million of them have problems in accessing the internet. We were transparent about this fact and shared this information with the public. At the same time, many developed countries of the world such as France, Canada and Portugal announced that 10 percent of their students have problems about accessing classes. This figure is below 10 percent in our country. We had founded three separate television channels for education in cooperation with the TRT and Türksat within 10 days which can be considered as world record. Our EBA ranked first among all education online sites of the world. In 2020, EBA was the most searched word in Google in Turkish.
500 THOUSAND TABLETS AND 25 GB INTERNET FOR STUDENTS
Tablet is a problem during online education. Can you tell us about tablet distribution project?
We are carrying this project under the leadership of our President and distribution of 500 thousand tablets will be completed by the end of January. We just completed the distribution of 45 thousand tablets as part of 5th phase of this project. These tablets include 25 GB internet packages. Moreover, nongovernmental organizations, municipalities and private sector donated approximately 150 thousand tablets and they continue to make contributions to our project.
What about children who are living in remote villages and towns... Even if they have tablets, there is no internet...
Governor's Offices, local administrations and provincial directorates of national education deliver printed version of our digital publications to the children living in remote villages and towns. Every child receives educational services.
A LARGE DIGITAL PLATFORM FOR CERTIFICATES AND DIPLOMA
Do you have new projects?
We are carrying out a 160 million dollar project in cooperation with the World Bank in order to establish a larger education platform. This platform will be open for all age groups who want to receive education. This new platform will allow adults to attend trainings and receive certificates and diplomas.
NEW GENERATION QUESTIONS INCREASE THE QUALITY
This year Turkey made important progress in the international ratings concerning the quality of education. Can you tell us about Turkey's success in TIMSS?
First of all, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) carries out its study amongst OECD countries and it is actually based on economy-education relationship. Turkey's achievements in both TIMSS and PISA education rankings revealed Turkey's development in the quality of education not only among higher income groups but also for all economic groups. We were among the first three countries that achieved greatest development according to the Pisa education ratings.
According to the TIMSS 2019 results, for the first time Turkey ranked above average score (500 points) which is accepted as the fixed success measure in the 4th grade level. In 8th grade level, Turkey ranked above the average in science and reached the average in maths.
You are a role model for teachers. Do you display any special effort to become a role model?
When you work with thousands of teachers throughout your career and spend tens of thousands of hours together with them and meet with tens of thousands of parents, it is natural to become an example. This is the reason why teachers call me, "Teacher Ziya" and this shows rapport. They have the same relationship model with their colleagues.
You hold routine meetings with teachers. How many teachers have you met during this period?
I have met more than 500 thousand teachers. As long as we live under the same flag, recite our national anthem and we feel like the children of the same land, we assume the same responsibility for our children.
EBA'S RECORD CARD IS EXCELLENT
We are holding 3 million lessons every day; in other words we manage 3 million classes. Our goal is to increase this number to 5 million. We have very detailed statistics about how many students are attending these classes and how long they stay online.
MARCH 23, 2020- JANUARY 15, 2021
EBA number of clicks:
16 billion 348 million 941 thousand and 278.
10 thousand and 845 hours of lessons were broadcasted in EBA TV primary, secondary and high school channels.
7695 lessons and 936 activities were prepared.
EBA mobile application was downloaded 27.1 million times for Android phones and 2.9 million times for iOS phones.
Preschool: 268 THOUSAND 141
Primary School: 60 MILLION 998 THOUSAND 942
Secondary School: 52 MILLION 690 THOUSAND 304
High School: 40 MILLION 577 THOUSAND 625
Total: 154 MILLION 535 THOUSAND 12