Turkey’s education system does not comply with global standards and improvements must be made to raise quality, Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) Director Andreas Schleicher has told daily Habertürk.
“In a changing world there is a need for various different skills. But the Turkish system does not comply with this [need]. The Turkish education system is carrying on in the same way while the world continues to turn. When we considered the issue relatively, Turkey’s performance is not keeping pace,” Schleicher said in an interview published on Nov. 13.
He said the education system in Turkey too often stresses “memorizing” at the expense of “creative thinking.”
“Turkish students are very good when the task is just recreating knowledge they have learned or putting something they have memorized on paper. But they have difficulty applying their knowledge in a creative way. Unfortunately, the areas where Turkish students excel are no longer important in the world,” Schleicher noted.
“More opportunities for development should be given to teachers. They should perform more observations of their colleagues and should work with them more closely. For example, teachers in Shanghai, who received the best scores in the PISA test, actually teach much less than Turkish teachers. They spend more of their time learning and mastering new educational techniques. Good teachers are also researchers; they do not just teach what is provided in course books. So the government should make the occupation of teacher more attractive in both financial and intellectual terms,” he said.
Announcing a raft of changes to Turkey’s troubled education system, Education Minister İsmet Yılmaz announced on Nov. 5 that a central high school entrance exam will only be held at specific schools, while the system will be based on the principle of students enrolling at the nearest school available.
Questioned about these changes, Schleicher said the proposal to prioritize local neighborhood schools when assigning students to state schools must be carried out carefully.
“The neighborhood school system can work very well in principle. But if you are introducing such a system, you need to double your effort to make disadvantaged schools more attractive for better teachers. If this does not happen then you will only increase inequality, because low-income students will just end up getting trapped in schools in their neighborhoods,” he added.
“You must have a clear vision of what information and values you want to transfer. The world is changing very fast. It is important to develop a compass for students. In an uncertain world they have to learn how to find their own way. In academia, it is no longer so important to be an expert in any particular field. Future creative teachers will not only describe physics or biology. They will blend a number of different disciplines,” the PISA director said, adding that mathematics education in Turkey “contains too much geometry.”
“You are particularly focusing on algebra and geometry in mathematics in Turkey. But mathematics is today used for many different things such as probability, risk and accuracy calculations. The mathematics that will shape the future is very different from the mathematics that has been taught in the past,” Schleicher said.
“If you want children to be creative risk takers, you should let them make mistakes. Teachers in the future will be more like mentors and less like educators,” he added.
Finland once again came top of this year’s PISA rankings, followed by Vietnam and a number of South Asian countries.