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    Because we said so, that’s why

    Fatih Özatay, PhD19 February 2013 - Okunma Sayısı: 1109

    This year, a system resembling the old one, which was not only unfair but also bad for education quality, was introduced without notice.

    Parents spend a lot so that their children receive high-quality education, and pass the examinations for science high schools, high schools that teach in English or at least a private school. Assume that your child passed the examination and started studying in one of these. But before he or she graduates, you take your kid from that school and try to place him or her to a “regular” one. Finding a new school for your child might put you into some trouble related to the legislation; but there are a number of options ahead. Anyway, there is no need to make effort to find mediocrity in Turkey.

    I have a memory like a sieve, but I remember reading a lot of stories about how prominent high schools in Turkey had almost no senior-year students. Not because students and their parents were unhappy with the quality of education, but because the applicable legislation about university entrance: the cumulative GDP at graduation affected the ranking of the student in university entrance exam. And successful schools were not generally generous when grading students. On the other hand, even the least successful student of a good school would outscore the brightest students of “regular” schools. Therefore, successful students became disadvantageous vis-à-vis students who study in regular schools because of different grading policies. Evidently, the former scored much better in university examination. So, this disadvantage was just on paper. But in interim cases, an “exceptionally successful” student who was graded with scrutiny would be worse off than a “good” student who was graded more generously.

    I have wearisomely argued one thing here on this column: there is a large income gap between rich countries and Turkey, and the gap has been barely narrowing down. One of the chief reasons for this is the education level in Turkey: our population is composed of seventh-grade dropouts. The quality of education is also low, as a number of international research reveal.

    Back to the old system

    The old system I summarized above and the potential disadvantages it caused did not actually change the ranking in university examinations in most of the cases. But it created a perception on such a risk. In other words, the system implied a disincentive on the future of Turkey. It offered high-quality education only to a few, and it later told them to join the mediocre.

    Later, with a step in the right direction – which are quite rare in our geography – the system was abandoned and replaced by one in which every student had a uniform composite score regardless of their cumulative GPA at graduation. The disincentive was eliminated. The senior classes of successful schools became populous again.

    Nevertheless, then came a typical move: this year, a system resembling the old one, which was not only unfair but also bad for education quality, was introduced without notice. “Because we say so, that’s why” they said. Now, graduates of schools that generous in grading will have a higher composite score. This was done arbitrarily, without any notice. Actually, this is the very indicator of Turkey’s overall education level. Don’t you think?

    This commentary was published in Radikal daily on 19.03.2013