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    Teachers and leisure time

    Fatih Özatay, PhD29 May 2012 - Okunma Sayısı: 1039

    You need better trained teachers and academics so as to offer better education. So, the “leisure times” of these profession groups must be assessed with this perspective.

    Turkey’s sustainable growth rate, the potential growth rate in other words, varies between 4.5-5 percent. Many are not content with this rate as it is insufficient to catch up with high-income countries. Economic theory suggests that, ceteris paribus, higher the skills level of a country is, higher the potential growth rate of that country will be. Evidently, a better education system is the key to a more skilled labor force. I am not talking solely about primary, secondary and tertiary education. Pre-school education and life-long and in-house trainings are also important.

    Well-trained teachers
    Clearly, you need better trained teachers and academics so as to offer higher-quality education services. So, the “leisure times” of these profession groups must be assessed with this perspective. For instance, prime minister Erdoğan recently commented on the two-month summer holiday of teachers in Turkey. A part of the holiday can be spared for intensified trainings to be delivered by respected and successful trainers, right?

    Think about it: universities other than medical schools and a few others have fourteen-week semesters. Excluding midterm weeks, you have a twelve-week period for education. A course offered for three to four hours per week equals 36 to 48 hours per semester. With an intensified training program of five consecutive hours a day, you can cover one semester’s content within just a couple of weeks. This way, teachers can be updated on the latest advancements in their fields. If such trainings are repeated for a few years, the qualifications of teachers will definitely be improved.

    Of course this is not an easy task as there are hundreds of thousands of teachers in Turkey. But trainings can be offered starting with those working in schools that were the least successful in university entrance exams and new teachers in the relevant city.

    Who will train them? Assume that trainers were selected among academics. Does each and every academic that have the title of professor or associate professor qualify as a trainer? As a person teaching at universities for years, I can easily answer no. Such an attempt will only waste time, money and endeavor. So, trainers must be selected among the top academics.

    I did not do any prior research for the above recommendation. But it is not that I am saying these out of ignorance. The Ministry of Education is probably carrying out such training programs. That is, my recommendation is not a breakthrough. And this actually is the main problem.

    Teachers in Turkey probably join such training programs in addition to university education. In spite of this, students they teach perform poorly. Many students who studied sciences during secondary school fail to answer a single math or physics question correctly in the university entrance exam. Or take a look at any announcement on the notice board of any public or private institution. You will be surprised how poorly language is used. In addition, OECD’s Pisa results prove that Turkish students perform far worse than their peers in the rest of the world.

    In a nutshell, a large part of teachers were educated in a problematic system. Majority of the universities training them are poorly performing. This problem cannot be solved in the short run. So, while making effort to eliminate this major challenge, we have to support active teachers so that the generations in between do not get lost in the shuffle. I think we must read last week’s discussion on teachers’ “leisure times” also with this perspective.

    This commentary was published in Radikal daily on 29.05.2012