MINISTER ÖZER: WHAT REALLY MATTERS IS KEEPING SCHOOLS OPEN AND CONTINUATION OF FACE-TO-FACE EDUCATIONMinister of National Education Mahmut Özer answered questions on education during the live "Night View" program on the CNN Türk television channel.
Minister of National Education Mahmut Özer commented on the education agenda of Turkey on the CNN Türk television channel. Noting that his Ministry has completed all preparations concerning face-to-face education after he was assigned to office, Minister Özer said that the Ministry has organized training programs for teachers about things to be considered during the pandemic and responded that all the needs of schools varying from masks to disinfectants, from cleaning materials to other hygiene supplies were already met. Noting that the Ministry had prepared guidelines in cooperation with the Ministry of Health about rules that should be followed at schools, Özer stated that they provided required information to education officials in 81 cities and 1.2 million teachers about the pandemic.
"Rather than adopting a province and district base approach, we developed a system based on cases or the classroom. In case the Ministry of Health reports two positive cases in a classroom, we suspend face-to-face education only in that classroom for 14 days. Students of that classroom continue their education through digital platforms and online live class applications," said Özer.
Özer noted that the national education system of the country is a large community with approximately 20 million people including students, teachers, administrative personnel and school bus staff and stressed that positive Covidvirus cases are inevitable but the system continues with success.
Stating that they are momentarily monitoring the number of vaccinated personnel at schools, number of positive cases, number of closed classrooms and closed schools through the electronic tracking system, Minister Özer said, "We suspend education for 14 days in classrooms in case of a positive case. After 14 days, face-to-face begins again. We have 850 thousand classrooms in 71 thousand and 320 schools and 5 thousand and 900 classrooms have been closed since September 6. What really matters is to keep schools open and continue face-to-face education."
Schools will not be closed
When asked if one of every 4 Covid-19 positive cases is among children under 17 will the Ministry decide to close schools, Minister Özer responded, "My answer is clear, definitely no. Right now, schools are the safest places. When the number of positive cases increases in the society, there is a rise in the number of closed classrooms. There are 20 million people in the school system, they go home, socialize with other people in different places. There are no scientific findings that show that the virus is spreading from schools. But it is important to follow rules, get vaccinated or get PCR tests and obey masks, social distancing and hygiene rules."
Minister Özer stressed that the rate of classrooms closed for a certain period of time was below 1 percent and there is only one closed kindergarten with 6 classrooms and a sports high school as of today.
Students get vaccinated in order to continue face-to-face education
Mentioning his visit to the Kabataş High School in İstanbul, Minister Özer said that a majority of students of this school had been vaccinated. He said that although students are not obliged to get vaccinated, they felt the responsibility to get vaccinated in order to continue face-to-face education.
Stressing that the school attendance rate is above 95 percent, Minister Özer went on to say that, "Parents have no worries about sending their children to school. Students and teachers are happy to go to school. Our ministry strictly follows the rules with implementing methods proposed by the Ministry of Health. There might be some problems in some schools, it is natural. Now, we have to get used to hygiene routines if we want to lead a normal life during the pandemic. Due to this reason we will not close schools."
We will not shorten lesson hours
Minister Özer stated that his Ministry will not shorten lesson hours in all schools and authority to shorten lesson hours in crowded classrooms is assigned to the offices of governors and provincial directorates of national education.
Concerning claims that face-to-face education has triggered the number of positive cases in the country, Minister Özer said that there is no scientific data that verifies such claims.
"Since September 5, face-to-face education was suspended in 5 thousand and 900 classrooms due to the pandemic but they are open now. Scientific surveys reveal that on the contrary, the virus is not disseminated in protected and hygiene environments when rules are obeyed," stated Özer.
Vaccination rate among teachers is above the general average of Turkey
Özer shared updated information about the vaccination rate among teachers. He noted that the rate of teachers who got the first dose of vaccination reached 92 percent and the rate of teachers who got two doses of vaccination is 83 percent while 5 percent of teachers are immune to the virus as they have already recovered from Covid-19.
Stating that the vaccination rate among teachers is above the general average of Turkey, Minister Özer said, "There has been an important increase in the vaccination rate among teachers since August 6, the beginning of the new school year. I would like to thank teachers as they became an example for society. High vaccination rate is our biggest advantage for keeping schools open."
Özer pointed out that his Ministry has been carrying out studies in an effort to maintain psychological health in the society since the beginning of the pandemic adding that despite some minor adaptation problems, the Ministry has been carrying out remedial activities.
"We will design face-to-face support programs and packages about learning loss but these programs," said Özer.
"Our strongest instrument in the reduction of young unemployment is vocational education"
Commenting on vocational education, Özer went on to say: "Right now, vocational education is the strongest tool in the reduction of young unemployment. I was in charge of vocational education as the deputy minister for the last 3 years. We have included employers of the labor market to the process which includes the update of the curriculum, design of skills training and in-service and professional improvement training programs for teachers."
"On the other hand, we have increased the education capacity of vocational schools in an effort to reinforce education, production and the employment cycle. Total income of vocational and technical high schools has increased by 100 percent since 2018 and increased from 217 million liras to 503 million liras."
"You might remember that vocational high schools produced masks, disinfectants, face guards, disposable aprons and allovers during the pandemic. Vocational high schools not only raise human resources for the labor market but they also produce most needed products in case of an extraordinary circumstance."
Main focus of National Education Council: Equal Opportunity in Education
Özer gave the following information about the 20th National Education Council which will be held after 7 years; "The main focus of the Ministry of National Education is equal opportunity in education. We have achieved important headway since 2002 under the leadership of our President. We have made investments in different fields such as preschool, vocational education and higher education; we have increased the number of schools and classrooms. Our education system functions quite well and now we focus on quality."
"I condemn such behavior against our teacher"
Concerning the conflict between the local administrator in the Kemalpaşa District of Artvin and a teacher, Özer said: "Words are not enough. I condemn such behavior against one of our teachers who worked with great sacrifices especially during the pandemic. The Ministry of Interior is investigating the incident. We will support our teachers in order to prevent the repetition of such an event."