Use of Computers at High Schools in Turkey

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Turkey's Ministry of Education initiated a computer-aided education (CAE) project in 1984, which took shape between 1984 and 1986. Its main aims were to spread computer literacy and the use of computers as one tool to compensate for the poor quality and persistent deficiencies of suitable teachers. In a country with a very young demographic structure, the project was to play an important role in creating a computer-literate workforce central to the future competitiveness of Turkey's economy.

This article first describes our education system. Then the CAE Project phases are discussed chronologically. Next is general assessment of the current situation with regard to use of computers in high schools. Finally, very broad conclusions related to CAE experience in Turkey are made.

Turkey's Education System

Education in Turkey is centrally directed, controlled and, in the case of state schools, funded by the Ministry of Education.

The first stage in formal education (Figure 1) is the five-year compulsory primary school education, which starts at age six or seven. It is followed by either a three-year secondary school or the first part of seminary or Anatolian high school (Lycee) education. From the age of 14 or 15 onwards for secondary school graduates, high school education is the next stage. Most private high schools and Anatolian-type Lycees teach in English.

All high school graduates take the National University Entrance Examination to gain access to higher education. The number of places available in higher education institutions is significantly less than the number of students who take the exam. An ever increasing number of high school graduates take it each year.

High School Education

As this article mainly concentrates on the use of computers in high school education, some statistics should prove useful.

As shown in Graph 1, the high school-age population in the academic year 1987-88 was about 3.3 million. According to projections of a five-year plan prepared by the State Planning Organisation, by 1993-94 it was estimated to be about 4.1 million with an in-school ratio of 45.2%. Graph 1 shows steady growth in the high school-age population as well as in the number of pupils at high schools. It also reveals the constantly ascending young demographic structure of Turkey. In 1990, about 47% of Turkey's population was under the age of 20.[1]

In the academic year 1989-90, in a total of about 2,000 regular and vocational state high schools, there were 1.3 million pupils and 105,000 teachers. As some teachers also teach at secondary schools, the pupil-to-teacher ratio is 31:1, obtained by using the total student and teacher figures in secondary and high schools.[2]

Each year only about 23% of new high school graduates &emdash; and about the same percentage of all applicants &emdash; obtain a place in a higher education program (Figure 2).

In the academic year 1989-90, the centrally allocated budget designated for education was 12.2%, or 2.7% of the GNP. These are very low compared with 21.3% and 6.8% for Venezuela in 1985, and 18.1% and 6.7% for the U.S. in 1983. The quality of education in Turkey greatly suffers from lack of financial resources.

CAE in Turkey &emdash; 1984-1988

During the 1980s, as Turkey started laying the foundations for an Information-Based Economy, the problem of having a work force not sufficiently computer-literate became much more apparent.

Thus, the Ministry of Education (M'E) embarked on an ambitious computer aided education (CAE) project in 1984. The main components of the project were identified as:

  • Preparing and integrating curricula;
  • Software design and development;
  • Training of teachers;
  • Acquiring hardware;
  • Incentives to produce hardware and components locally.

In the academic year 1985-86, as part of the CAE project, 1,111 computers were bought for 101 high schools &emdash; 10 for pupils and one for the teachers in each school. Two teachers from each school were trained for five weeks. Plus, 130 PCs were bought for 101 tourism and hotel-operation high schools.

Starting in the 1987-88 academic year, these schools introduced a computer-literacy course as an elective with a hands-on component. In the next academic year, 805 PCs were purchased to train pupils in vocational high schools, with some emphasis on hardware maintenance.

An article[3] assessing the foundation work done for the CAE Project during 1984-88 summarises the outcome:

  • Providing hardware and training teachers in the BASIC programming language did not raise the efficiency and effectiveness of education considerably.
  • The hardware proved inadequate for teacher training and the software used.
  • Teacher training focused on using computer applications rather than training teachers to develop software.
  • The main considerations for software were its suitability to the curriculum and education system plus ease of use.
  • Priority was given to applications software for short-term needs.
  • Organisations developing informatics products and services for education should collaborate with universities.
  • The involvement of universities in the CAE Project should be further promoted. The same article listed the positive and negative aspects of the developments in the CAE Project for the 1984-88 period:

    Positive Aspects

    • CAE has had a positive influence in increasing pupils' motivation to learn.
    • Involving private firms helped advance the popularity of the CAE concept.
    • Training of teachers and administrators in computing gave rise to a core of cadres.
    • The awareness of adults about computing was raised considerably.

    Negative Aspects

    • Software was not developed with compatibility to the curriculum in mind.
    • Successfully involving teachers in CAE did not occur.
    • Selected teachers were not trained in an adequate fashion.
    • Private firms did not provide appropriate hardware and software.
    • Private firms' involvement was below expectations.

    CAE in Turkey &emdash; 1989-1991

    In 1989, the M'E invited private firms to take part in the CAE Project. A total of 28 firms (17 local and 11 foreign) joined in 50 selected schools. The M'E also invited some universities to take part by training teachers in programming and computer literacy.

    In the academic year 1989-90, with 9 out of 28 private firms, an agreement was reached to carry out experimental projects in 58 schools. During these projects, 800 computers already purchased for 40 schools plus 378 newly purchased PCs for 18 more schools were to be put into effective use. On the training side, 750 more teachers were trained; several software programs for 37 different subject areas were also developed.

    According to the report[4] of a commission comprising representatives from the M'E, researchers from various universities and teachers involved in the CAE Project, the 1989-90 academic year could be designated as the pilot phase for CAE projects in Turkey. Although limited, the pilot projects' experience suggested that:

    • Serious steps were being taken to implement curricula in line with scientific research and the present situation's needs.
    • In software, quality was foremost.
    • Although continuing, successful teacher training had been below expectations in qualitative and quantitative terms.
    • Acquired hardware had proved inadequate and there were difficulties in maintaining and servicing it.

    Preparation of a 10-year master plan with some quantitative measures was enviaged to begin in 1990. The report[4] outlined the major issues to be in this master plan for nation-wide diffusion of CAE:

  • Develop alternative approaches for diffusion of CAE.

    -Determine proportional use of CAE in different subject areas.

    -Decide on the type of schools and levels of education to be addressed.

    -Settle the computer/pupil ratio.

    -Determine hardware allocation criteria.

    -Devise yearly plan for CAE diffusion.

    • Establish the division of responsibility and control between the M'E and local authorities.
    • Make research on curriculum, types of schools and experimental models ongoing.
    • Implement a management information system for the CAE Project.

    -Form a centralised R&D organisation.

    -Obligate firms to set up R&D centers.

    -Organisations should work together.

    • Introduce incentives for competition among software developers (including teachers) to raise the quality of software.
    • As CAE d'es not require traditional classrooms, optimise the use of traditional labs and any other space available.
    • Develop alternative approaches for support services.

    -Plan how to train administrators.

    -Develop models for training and employing high-quality technicians for hardware maintenance and repair.

    -Develop models for software support.

Devise a mechanism to support and monitor applications.

Study the effects of technology transfer on the national informatics industry.

Consider the financial dimension.

-From a goal of allocating 20% of the central government budget to education, determine the proportion given to CAE.

-Establish optimal hardware, software and training budgets' ratios.

-Estimate internal and external financial resource requirements.

Regarding software, the commission's report[4] stated that moving from Foundation Phase (1984-88) to Application Phase (1989-91) of the CAE Project was a major accomplishment. The biggest obstacle was developing appropriate courseware.

The report also noted that most pre-service and inservice was highly inadequate. And teacher education colleges did not have a course on CAE or computer-literacy in their curriculum.

A World Bank Country Study[5] assessed developments in the CAE field as follows:

"During 1985-90, 48 training programs were organised and 2,240 teachers trained in computer literacy and programming. The plans for 1991 were to train a further 5,300 teachers. However, the CAE Project appears to have run into certain implementation obstacles. First, the available software has not yet been integrated with curriculum developments. Second, there is a severe shortage of suitably trained teachers. As a result of these constraints, the hardware could not be used in the originally intended manner. Third, a number of the potential vendors dropped out complaining of excessive bureaucracy and inadequate terms of reference and project definition. Although program implementation is continuing, it is at reduced growth rate (less than 40% of target) and with significantly reduced expectations."

1993 &emdash; Next Step: The CES Project

In 1993 a new project named Computer Experimental Schools (CES) was initiated by the M'E with the financial support of the World Bank.

In the CES project, 53 schools located in different regions of Turkey are to use specially equipped facilities for teaching and learning. It is also expected that a computer-mediated communication network linking these schools will provide a technological and pedagogical edge.

Initial aims of Department of Information Technology in Education (DITE), which is running the CES Project, relate to evaluation, maintenance, curriculum and training. The ultimate goal is increased interaction among schools through services like e-mail and computer conferencing, plus access to online databases and electronic bulletin boards. These aims are summarised:[6]

Evaluation and Maintenance Goals and Functions:

  • Exchange e-mail about problems and solutions found during implementation. Send formal evaluation forms to teachers and administrators to complete and return.
  • Monitor CES implementation via e-mail questionnaires and online meetings.
  • Maintain a help-desk by e-mail to help schools solve technical problems.

Curriculum Goals and Functions:

  • Cooperative project work among national schools and schools abroad.
  • Teacher and student access to multimedia resources.
  • Establish student news and information bulletin boards.

Training Goals and Functions:

  • Teacher training via distance learning.
  • Provide links among educators at all levels for professional development.
  • Distribute news and information from DITE in the form of a bulletin.

To achieve these goals, the 53 CES schools are being equipped with necessary hardware and software. The PCs in a CES laboratory at each school are locally networked (LAN) as interconnected with the others by a wide area network (WAN), which also provides access to Internet. Such a network should provide the basis for collaborative learning and research, for world-wide communication to enrich the curriculum and supply online help for teachers, for data collection and numerous other opportunities.

Current Situation

Today it is estimated that just over 800 high schools (Table 1) have computer labs, representing only about 15% of the total number of schools. Over 5,000 teachers have taken inservice training from universities. There are 1,000 trained teacher trainers and 100,000 computer-literate teachers, although the latter is hard to verify.[7]

Computer penetration in high schools remains extremely low and computers-to-pupil ratios are discouragingly high (100:1). In this respect, Turkey lags significantly behind most comparator and 'ECD countries.

Courses for computer-literacy, high-level programming and the use of databases and spreadsheets have been appended to vocational and technical high schools' curriculum. Their contents are in the process of being updated. In regular high schools, courses on computer-literacy and general computing are being introduced.

The M'E is also building a portfolio management information system linking 73 regional education directorates' offices with the centre in Ankara to provide information on personnel, infrastructure, educational statistics and facilities. It should greatly assist strategic planning.

General Assessment of Today

In 1988 the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) enumerated five reasons why computers should be used in education:[8]

  • To individualize instruction;
  • To contribute to learning mastery;
  • To make higher quality material available more widely; and
  • To stimulate educational reform.

Although the main project in Turkey was called a CAE project, it has only been able to achieve a minimum subset of IFIP's reasoning for the use computers in education. It is hard to describe it as computer-aided education.

One strategy has been to utilise the secondary schools as intermediaries for diffusion of computer skills. But it is far removed from producing the computer-literate workforce originally conceived.

The limited type of computer courses introduced can only encourage a relatively low percentage of pupils at high schools and only in limited use. Integration of computer-aided education into the curriculum has not been achieved.

As yet, the types of software being used do not complement any of the other courses in the curriculum such as physics, chemistry, etc. Thus the initial aim of employing computers as one tool to compensate for poor quality and persistent deficiencies of teachers has not been fulfilled either.

There is virtually no software available for use in high school education that uses the interactive multimedia technology that best serves individual learning needs.

In all these issues it appears that poor planning for CAE has played an important negative role. The need to train teachers at teacher education colleges and the need for inservice was discovered rather late.

Some teachers have been taught to program in BASIC &emdash; an oversight by planners. As the benefits of object-oriented programming are widely recognised, it is wasteful to teach a language in which even structured programming is not possible.

The hardware acquired from 1984 has become obsolete without really being put into effective use. In an environment with scarce resources, this is a rather costly experience. The CES Project is useful for true introduction of CAE in high school education. But with its limited scope and the shortage of resources, it remains to be seen whether the experience gained from it will be effectively utilised.

Conclusions

The use of computers in Turkey's high school education is still at very early stages. The following are the major problem areas:

  • Lack of financial resources;
  • Lack of appropriate planning; and
  • Lack of adequate software.

Turkey has relatively young demographics. If she is to take good advantage of it in the post-industrial world, well-developed state policies on the use of computers in education are necessary. Such policies should address issues of computer use not only in schools but homes as well, and the provision of a nationwide network to allow access to a broad range of educational software, knowledge bases, global computer-mediated communication and the rapid diffusion of such resources. n

Omer Yedekcioglu is an assistant professor of MIS at Koç University, Graduate School of Business. E-mail : oyedekcioglu@ku.edu.tr

References:

  1. State Institute of Statistics (Feb. 1995), Statistical Yearbook of Turkey 1994, p. 62.
  2. Balolu, Zekai (1990), Turkiye'de Egitim, TUSIAD.
  3. Geban O. (June 1993), "Turkiye'de BDE'ye Yonelik Yapilan Calismalara Genel Bakis," EBIT Daire Baskanligi Yayinlari, pp. 14-16.
  4. (June 1993) "1989-1990 Ogretim Yilinda Yapilan Calismalarla Ilgili Komisyon Raporlari," EBIT Daire Baskanligi Yayinlari, pp. 17-19.
  5. World Bank (1993), Turkey Informatics and Economic Modernization, p. 107.
  6. Cagiltay K., Askar P. and Ozgit A. (1995), "Setting up a Computer-Mediated Communication Network for Secondary Schools," Proceedings of INET95.
  7. Private Correspondence, Kozan. , M'E, (Sept. 1995).

Idordick H. S. and Wang G. (1993), The Information Society, Sage Publications, pp. 111-112.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.

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