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    The dangers of filling the “leisure time”

    Fatih Özatay, PhD31 May 2012 - Okunma Sayısı: 1047

     

    Addressing the leisure time issue with the wrong perspective and devising policies accordingly can harm the quality of education in Turkey which is already low.

    The agenda on the “leisure time” of teachers can prove both constructive and destructive depending on the context of the debate. The constructive point of view was that I handled on Tuesday: a part of the summer holiday can be allocated for trainings tailored to improve the quality of teachers. On the other hand, it can be extremely harmful to assume that the leisure time of teachers especially during the academic year is “leisure” in the strict sense of the word and to develop policies accordingly. The short-cut evidence to this is the case with academics teaching at universities.

    Assume that a university will open a new program and you are in charge of the process. The university management expects the new program to be ambitious in terms of both education and research quality. The objective is to make the program the best of Turkey in the short term and one of the internationally renowned programs in the medium term. It is evident that you can develop such program only with the best of the best academics. Let’s cast public universities away and focus on private universities as for the former activities are limited by the academic staff to be assigned by the Higher Education Board and the budget resources decided by the state.

    First, you have to contact with PhD holders from the premier universities in the related field, and convince them to join your team. Then you have to bring them together with a couple of experienced academics and create a productive working environment. You must keep in mind that other schools and programs will also be interested in working with young PhD holders in your team. So, when you offer them the job, chief among the questions they will ask will be how many courses they will teach in a year.

    For programs designed to concentrate on research, academics must ideally teach four lessons a year. If there are two semesters in an academic year, it makes two courses per semester. Assuming each course is four hours a week, this corresponds to a “course load” of eight hours a week. If the program is to concentrate more on education and less on research, you can increase the course load. But the maximum number of courses must be six or seven courses a year. In short, weekly course load does not exceed fourteen hours. This might sound weird if academics is not a familiar field to you. After all, weekly work load is in general forty hours. How can academics make away with teaching “only” eight hours a week?

    But if you think just for a minute or consult to the people from the sector, you can easily understand that there is nothing weird here. Academics need a lot of time for reading new studies and keeping themselves up to date with the latest developments in the field, let alone doing research per se. And add the time up for research, writing down the results, sharing the results with colleagues and revising the study on the basis of the feedback… Academics do deliver conferences, work on the dissertations of graduate students, read and comment on colleagues’ studies, and attend conferences. You can add jury works and relevant preliminary works, preparing for courses and reading and grading of quizzes and midterms to the list. Also, apart from the field of your specialization, you might be interested in the developments in other sub-fields of the discipline. This evidently requires reading new materials and rolling in the deep of the relevant literature.

    Adding these together, you will understand that a successful academic actually has no leisure or spare time within the regular working hours and that he or she feels “guilt” about not studying during his or her actual leisure time. The moral of the story is that, addressing the leisure time issue with the wrong perspective and devising policies accordingly can harm the quality of education in Turkey which is already low.

    This commentary was published in Radikal daily on 31.05.2012

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