Turkey is heading for what may be one of its historically most important and most critical elections.
The July 22 polls will be held in an atmosphere in which Turkish society is politicized and polarized to a level unseen during last quarter century and where the statements and mottos of political parties are far more trenchant than in the past.
Articles written by party officials are directly expressing their thoughts on topics of interest and explaining the type of Turkey vision they espouse.
In this regard, party officials determined by the AK Party, the CHP, the MHP and the DP, all of which may surpass the 10 percent election threshold, will write about their parties' policies on Turkish-American relations, Turkey-EU relations, environment and urbanization, education policies, economy policies, energy policies, Iraq policy, policy on women and underprivileged groups, views on the Kurdish issue and other sub-identities, health and approaches to the social state, views on the system and regime, and terrorism and security, on our "Election Arena" page.
While strongly emphasizing that there will be no editorial interference of any kind in the articles except for translating and copy editing them, we want to express our wish that the winner of this tough competition will be our developing democracy and our people. Enjoy the articles.
AK Party sets sights on international standards in education
Education as a basic element that increases the quality of life is also a prerequisite for welfare, stability and competitive power. For this reason, strategic importance should be attached to education, starting from pre-school ages.
We regard education as an opportunity and a center of acceleration for our country attaining the goal of contemporary civilization set by Atatürk. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has insistently tackled the infrastructure, access and quality problems of education. Thus, during our term, we have increased the budget allocated to the Education Ministry by 186 percent. In our next term we are planning to allocate the greatest share of public expenditures to education.
We see education as a basic right, and we are working to ensure education is accessible for everyone.
In this context the fundamental purpose of primary and secondary education should be to provide basic skills to students as well as an ability to reason, question, act firmly and to carry out synthesis and analysis.
In accordance with this concept, the curricula have been amended and put into use in all schools.
As part of this change, the High School Entrance Examination (OKS) will be abolished.
After the new curriculum is put into practice in all classes, the OKS will be abolished after 2008. Instead, a new high school selection and placement exam will be implemented.
We must revise the existing exam-oriented education system which has adverse effects on families and which undermines the development of analytical skills of students. Thus, the AK Party will ensure that this transformation of the OKS is followed by that of the Student Selection Examination (OSS).
In addition to provision of free textbooks and scholarships to students to uphold the principle of equal opportunities in education, we will implement policies to increase professional satisfaction for teachers.
In the next term, we will continue with our investments for improving the quality of our human resources and making them competitive in the world markets. In this context, we are seeking to completely eradicate access problems such as classrooms, infrastructure, teachers and equipment, which we have already minimized, and to increase the quality of education. To this end, the Education Ministry should be turned into an effective body which makes policies and exerts coordination and inspection functions.
A radical education reform will be made in parallel to this transformation to eradicate the waste of resources. Thus, skills and individual differences of students will be determined at earlier ages.
In place of a single examination conducted at the end of secondary education, we will establish a measurement and assessment system which improves the effectiveness and success of the curricula taught at schools with an efficient vocational education-oriented guidance system.
We are also planning to provide human resources support to industries by channeling students to various sectors in short supply of professionals.
This will serve to alleviate the appeal of university education. We must give our universities their strategic importance with respect to health, education, environment, energy, urban development, international relations, economy, defense and natural security.
Unfortunately, the structural problems that our higher education system faces prevent it from contributing to the global competitive power of Turkey at intended levels.
The AK Party assumes an international perspective on the higher education system and sees it as vital to implement international standards in universities.
Within the framework of the Turkey’s EU bid and the Bologna Declaration -- a pledge taken by 29 participating countries to reform higher education systems to create overall convergence at European level -- we must pave the way for our universities to establish campuses abroad and vice versa.
* Professor Mehmet Sağlam is a former education minister and former Higher Education Board (YOK) chairman currently running for parliament on the AK Party’s Kahramanmaras list.
Only the MHP is capable of taking care of education
With the help of God and the support of our great nation, in its single-party rule the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will train individuals who will perfectly visualize Turkey’s future and ascendance, are competent at speaking and thinking in Turkish and able to generate new ideas in Turkish. For this reason a high-quality education that will ensure training of individuals with a strong national identity and universal personality is our primary goal.
To make our young people equipped with the abilities necessary to challenge world competition, we will stay focused on the following:
* The Education Ministry will be restructured.
* National and spiritual values will be given prior consideration in education.
* The Instruction and Discipline Board will be a participatory and semi-autonomous institution.
* In consideration of the need for human capital in our country, a center for testing, reviewing and planning will be established within the ministry.
* A “National Education Academy” will be put into operation and the principles for teacher training will be determined.
* Universities will enjoy academic, financial and administrative autonomy.
* Some universities will become specialized universities.
* Cooperation between industry and universities will be strengthened.
* Compulsory education will be 12 years.
* Vocational and technical schools will restructured in compliance with the developments in the relevant sectors.
* Projects that will envisage the transformation of private tutoring institutions to private schools will be given immediate consideration.
* Passage from elementary education to higher education without examinations will be partially implemented.
* Equal opportunity will be given to all students in education and the gap between schools will be bridged.
* The number of quality of preschool institutions will be increased and preschool education will be made compulsory.
* Courses like “Reading and understanding the Koran and life of the Prophet Mohammed” will be offered as elective courses starting from the sixth grade.
* Special education and counseling services will be supported with student-oriented and customized models.
* The teachers will be more active and determinative over the student to maintain a relationship based on discipline and success.
* Schools’ needs for education materials and teaching staff will be immediately met.
* Merit and career will be given the highest consideration in selection of school administrators; the status of contract teacher will be removed -- teachers under contract will be granted permanent tenure.
* The social and financial rights of the teachers will be improved; teachers will be paid YTL 230 every month as a development incentive.
* The number and quality of the joint domestic and inter-national graduate programs will be increased to train teaching staff and researchers.
* The students will be protected against drug threats and cooperation between schools and families will be made more effective.
* Vocational and public education centers will be updated and improved to provide more attractive offers for those who do not have the opportunity to attend the regular schooling system.
* All higher education students will be accommodated in dormitories, the physical capacity of which will be substantially increased.
* Student loans will be increased in consideration of the current economic conditions.
* School budgets will be developed to meet the overall expenditures of the schools; their financial needs will be met in time.
* Murat Sefkatli, MHP vice president and parliamentary candidate for Ankara’s first electoral district
Democrat Party's education policy
Millions of parents and guardians in Turkey are aware that their children do not receive a modern education. The school structure is laden with problems. The current education system, which offers high-quality education to only a minimal percentage of students, is in need of immediate structural reform. Preschool education in developed countries is over 90 percent, but only 17 percent for 6-year-olds in Turkey. Children between the ages of 3 and 5 are not included in this percentage. Although 70 percent of brain development occurs before elementary school, education provided to students during that period is completely overlooked in Turkey.
Our main priority is to make preschool mandatory. The private sector will be encouraged to support preschool education. We will establish new schools and education for intellectually advanced children and we will allocate enough teaching positions to meet the teacher demand in Turkey. The supply-demand balance of education faculties will be taken into consideration when training teachers. This way the Education Ministry will be able to appoint as many teachers as are needed in particular subjects. Current teachers will be able to receive training at education facilities in their region. In line with the school development model, teachers will be able to develop their profession in the city or town of their employment.
There will be emphasis on student guidance in elementary schools, especially after the fourth grade. Additionally a comprehensive and professional guidance program for sixth graders will determine the talents of the students and provide educational guidance. Removing the High School Entrance Test (OKS) will be considered, however the system will not be removed until an alternative is created.
There will be twice as many of the current 4,230 vocational schools already in existence. Vocational schools will offer education that complies with the objectives of industry and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). With the slogan, “Education is required for production, production is required to become a trademark, and a trademark is required to have a voice in world standards,” vocational education will be remodeled to offer classes that students will be able to actually use in their careers. Nongovernmental organization, market representatives and experts will be active participants in vocational education. Our ideal education policy targets a 70 percent vocational education and 30 percent academic education.
Instead of removing the Student Selection Exam (OSS), we have to decrease the 1.62 million students that wait outside university doors every year. Currently there are 486 higher vocational schools. This figure and the capacity of the schools will be increased. Rooted reforms will be launched to make these schools a new alternative for students. Preparatory classes for higher vocational schools will offer 1+1 foreign language classes. This will ensure that by the time students graduate they have a career and speak two different languages. The possibility for students from higher vocational schools to transfer to two-year colleges will increase from 10 to 50 percent. Students at academies will undergo testing to determine their level, talents and knowledge capacity for university entrance beginning in the 10th grade. Students will be able to use the combined grade of the test and their academic final exams to enter college. Universities will be able to independently evaluate student selection quotas.
The Democrat Party (DP) will not apply uniform or clothing regulations at universities. Teachers will receive payment for their class hours in addition to their salary. Teachers will be able to live in public housing until their retirement. Their rent will be deducted from their salary. Retired teachers will also be able to benefit from public housing. National and international tour trips for educational and cultural purposes will be increased. Such trips will be held during the summer when schools are closed. Disabled children will be assured educational opportunities. Mega-education campuses will be created to ensure every type of educational opportunity. Multipurpose schools will be located inside these campuses.
*Omer Balıbey, Former Istanbul regional education director and DP parliamentary candidate for Istanbul’s second electoral district
CHP: 180-minute exam will no longer be decisive in Turkey
Compared to previous elections, political parties this year are discussing more educational problems in their election manifestos. As a teacher I find this to be a good development and hope this sensitivity of political parties will continue.
As a member of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), I am flattered by the interest in the topics we mentioned in our education reform package -- particularly our promise to abolish the Student Selection Exam (ÖSS).
A person who has for years been preparing students for this exam, I have repeatedly been asked how we will abolish it. I must state at once that this promise of ours is supported by a comprehensive study by several academics.
Troubleshooting in education requires a holistic perspective. You cannot solve a problem if you cannot eliminate the causes. The problem pertaining to university entrance is in fact the result of numerous intertwined issues. An insufficient supply of higher education in the face of continuously increasing higher education demand produces a ruthless, unfair and unrealistic practice of determining our fate within 180 minutes. The first thing we will do is ensure that these 180 minutes will no longer be decisive for the fate of students.
To this end, we will introduce a system for multiple measurements and assessments for secondary education and comprehensive reforms of vocational high schools and vocational schools, maximizing the physical capacities and possibilities of our universities, open education, interactive higher education, secondary education, etc.
For this and other problems, the thing is how you perceive it. We will reinstate common sense in the education system. One of the first decisions that our government will make will be to convene a new education consultation congress. The proposals we mention now will be turned into common sense policies in this congress. We will put an end to the conflict waged among higher education institutions during the last five years. We will implement our project related to the university exam in cooperation with the Higher Education Board (YOK) and universities. They know that the current state of affairs is not sustainable and have important ideas about what should be done.
During our government, we will also reinstate legal order in education. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has created its own legal order in education. The Education Ministry’s regulation on textbooks and instructional tools has been amended 14 times between 2003 and 2007. The regulation on promotion and appoint-ment of the ministry’s personnel and the regulation on appointment of teachers and managers to educational institutions have been amended annually. These were actually efforts placing the party’s fans in government positions. Turkey has a minister and an undersecretary who swere punished for favoritism. This alone evidences the gravity of the current situation.
The profession of teaching has turned into a profession that everybody can perform.
We will stress the national aspects of education. The education system has suffered great blows from the changes made to the system. No country in the world has imported an educational program. This is what the AK Party has done.
We will rebuild the education system ruined by the AK Party. We have the manpower and projects to make it.
* Muharrem Ince is a Yalova deputy for the CHP
Last Mod: 05 Temmuz 2007, 10:04
WHAT DO PEOPLE EXPECT?
Yagmur Yildirim (20) Second-year student at Ankara University Medical Department
"My expectation for politicians is that they solve the accommodation problems at universities. There are not sufficient accommodation facilities, and students coming from other cities have problems finding places to live. I have no problem with finding scholarships, but I have problem with finding accommodation."
Mehmet Ozdemir (23) Third-year student at Kirikkale University Economy Faculty
"My largest expectation in the name of education is reducing the bureaucracy. Our professors, the authorized people from our universities are not helping us to find employment. Everyone wants universities to be self-governed but I don’t. Universities should not become autonomous as they will do what they wish. No one controls them."
Talip Erdogan (25) University graduate
"Universities should not accept new students since those who graduate cannot find jobs. There is no need for additional universities, either. There is a lack of staff for the existing number of universities. Instead of starting construction on new universities, they should first finish those universities that they started to construct in 1995."
Gul Sevcan (40) Merchant, market owner
"I expect politicians to implement practices that would enable professional directing of the students from primary school. Students should study according to their skills. A large number of university graduates are currently unemployed. Political parties should make it a priority to provide employment to university graduates."
Mert Atik (12), Meliha Atik(55) Student, housewife
Meliha Atik: "The books in primary schools are not of good quality. In today’s books, there is no information on Ottoman history, or on the Turkish homeland. Turkey is going backward in education.” Mert Atik: “Our lesson recesses are very short; we can’t play."