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    Problem in the quality of education

    Fatih Özatay, PhD17 August 2009 - Okunma Sayısı: 951

     

     

    Economic theory says that enhancing the skills and knowledge of people to a higher level is the most important factor that will improve the level of per capita income and economic growth. Of course this cannot be accomplished overnight. Long term is in question. Let us leave aside the foundation universities that do not rank at top in quality listing and take a look at those at top. You possibly read about this issue on the education pages of daily papers. Let us take the minimum score that will enable admission with scholarship to any department in any of the top ranking foundation universities and the minimum score for admission without scholarship. You will see that there is a huge difference. There might be a couple of departments for which this does not apply, but is widely valid. This is not unique for only this year. You can access such data on the website of Student Selection and Placement Center (OSYM).

    Now, I will ask you a question and you will say why I ask such easy questions. But, I will ask it anyway: If these leading foundation universities attain the level of quality that will attract high-scoring students as much as leading state universities, why do they fail to attract high-scoring students to programs without scholarship? The answer is obvious: in programs without scholarship, students pay for the education and most of the parents do not have the resources for this.

    Academic staff of some foundation universities is very qualified. Foundation universities manage to attract young science people that have completed postgraduate studies in prominent universities at international level more easily than state universities. However, students who lack the financial resources to pay for these schools have to settle for state universities which lag far behind in terms of quality. This is a significant waste for Turkey.

    However, this is a solvable problem. I have touched upon this issue before. For instance, this might be a method of solution to elaborate on: a system that extends loans to students over a maturity to cover the duration of education and gets back the loan after a reasonable time following the graduation at a reasonable interest rate and installations. This system can also be structured by commercial banks.

    Some incentive elements can also be devised in the benefit of commercial banks to participate in the system. Moreover, to reduce the risk perception of banks, a type of loan guarantee system that pays back a certain proportion of due loans can be designed. To make sure that the student finds a good job and finances to pay back the loan, commercial banks can extend loans with more reasonable conditions to students studying at higher-quality universities.

    An independent rating agency ranks universities separately for each department: best ten universities for Economics programs and so on. Quality problem in education is more important than quantitative criteria like the number of universities in the country or the average duration of education. On the website of VOX, there are the results of a research published on August 14. The study questions why Latin American countries show relatively weaker growth performances than other countries in spite of the high number of people receiving education and high duration of education over the majority of Latin American countries.

    The answer study gives to this important question: Quantitative criteria like the duration of education or the number of people receiving education to have a positive meaning considering growth, the education provided must improve skills of comprehension. That is to say, figures alone are not important; what matters is quality. The study reaches this conclusion using quite convincing methods.

    One reminder: In my commentaries before the crisis period, I addressed the results of the Pisa test done by OECD. Countries like Turkey and Mexico ranked at bottom levels. For those interested: the mentioned research can be accessed at http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/3869 (Authors:  E. Hanushek and L. Woessmann)

     

    This commentary was published in Radikal daily on 17.08.2009

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