MINISTER SELÇUK WAS THE GUEST OF ANATOLIA NEWS AGENCY EDITOR'S DESK PROGRAMMinister of National Education Ziya Selçuk answered questions concerning the education agenda at the Editor's Desk Program of the Anatolia News Agency.
Minister of National Education Ziya Selçuk answered questions at the Editor's Desk program of the Anatolia News Agency. Selçuk said the pandemic was a hard period but it also paved the way for new opportunities as a result of emerging new needs.
None of the countries in the world were prepared for the pandemic, stated Selçuk, "Turkey suffered from the same problems that other countries in the world faced."
Selçuk stressed that Turkey preferred a more controlled way when compared with some countries who continued face to face education and his Ministry monitors the daily situation and suggestions of the Science Board while making decisions.
Noting that Turkey was among a few countries that were able to open 3 different television channels for education and EBA was the most used education portal of the world, Selçuk pointed out that EBA support centers also drew the attention of the world.
"When we consider all these, we see that we have advantages and disadvantages. There is still lot to do about learning loss but we have managed to provide professional improvement training to almost all of our teachers. This is a very special situation."
"It is rational to make comparisons with other countries"
Minister Selçuk stated that it is rational to make comparisons with other countries adding that parents were the greatest supporters of his Ministry during this process.
"Parents were with their children all the time during this period and supported them during their education. I am grateful to them. There were teachers who struggled to grant equal opportunities in education for all students. I am grateful to them, too," said Selçuk.
Stating that there is uncertainty about the future during the pandemic, Selçuk stressed that it will not be possible to know the course of the pandemic although the society wants to know long term answers.
"When we have to make a decision, we must consult with the Ministry of Health and revise the data concerning the pandemic with the Ministry of Interior Affairs. It is not possible to make decisions without consulting with the Science Board."
Selçuk reminded that some countries kept their schools open during the pandemic and said such decisions were made according to the special conditions and characteristics of the countries.
"There are hundreds of scientists behind our decisions. We consult with assessment experts, pediatric psychologists and many other scientists before making any decision," said Selçuk.
"Reflection of normal in the distance education"
Responding to a question if distance education is different from face to face education and if students learn less in distance education, Selçuk said certain processes were experienced at certain periods at schools.
Pointing out that students experience loss of interest in lessons during spring or after examinations and game based teaching approach was used for certain grade students, Selçuk said all these facts are also experienced in distance education.
"Previously, we were not sending such a large number of books to students, we did not publish books and we did not design mobile applications for special children because all these activities were carried out in the classroom by teachers. We have published study books and they are free," stated Selçuk.
Selçuk stressed that the pandemic is a very special period for the world and Turkey that requires scientific research, adding that the last issue of the National Education Magazine published selected articles about education during the pandemic.
Asked about some complaints by parents that their children could not concentrate on their lessons during distance education.
"This is a very hard period for everyone. Children are bored. It is not easy for them. Due to this reason, we recommend parents to encourage their children to read books, deal with artistic and sports activities," said Selçuk.
"Amendments in the Regulation"
Answering a question about digital report cards, Minister Selçuk said that they have decided to give digital report cards in an effort to avoid mobility during face to face report card distribution.
"We are making amendments in the regulation in order to do what is most convenient for our students and parents. Some measures needed during extraordinary periods like pandemic were not covered as a part of existing regulation. Due to this reason, we are making amendments in order to provide best conditions for our teachers, students and parents," stated Selçuk.
"It was not possible to know the course of the pandemic"
"We have been monitoring our students in every city, district and village and learning how many of them have contact with coronavirus patients. We are learning how many people there are in their families. We are carrying out this activity every day. We are cooperating with the Ministry of Health and the Science Board in this regard. This is a dynamic process and conditions are changing rapidly. It is not possible for me to know the course of the pandemic. We cannot be sure about the vaccination process and how it would affect the world. If things go smoothly, we are ready to start face to face education. If it does not, we also have plans about this situation, too," underlined Selçuk.
"It is not a coincidence that EBA ranked first in the world"
Selçuk pointed out that Turkey founded three television channels for distance education within ten days after the start of the pandemic adding that they have increased live class capacity, published and distributed thousands of books and gave professional improvement training to teachers since then.
"It is not a coincidence that EBA ranked first in the world. Every country has systems similar to EBA but this ranking reveals our success. We might make mistakes but it is a long path and journey," stated Selçuk.
Selçuk said that 3 million students out of 18 million are having accession problems and his Ministry is working in an effort to solve this important problem.
"We are cooperating with the Ministry of Health about what we will do at schools"
The Minister of National Education stated that his Ministry has been working with the Ministry of Health about what and how things will be done at schools and also cooperating on the preparation of a booklet about vaccination.
Answering a question if the Ministry of National Education might consider different assessment methods other than face to face examination, Selçuk said any learning loss will cause further problems for the future and Turkey could not tolerate a low performance in education years later due to problems experienced during the pandemic.
"We will take all kinds of measures as a part of preparations for face to face examination; we have made plans for the disinfection activities, mask, distance and number of students who will enter the examination in the same classroom. We are working in an effort to create a more controlled environment for our students."
He added that students who have contacted coronavirus patients or who have caught the corona virus will take the test after recovery or after the end of their quarantine period.
"We consider scientific data before taking any decisions"
Selçuk stated that the Ministry is taking decisions based on scientific data rather than on reactions and demands coming from students and parents adding that, "Decisions concerning education are made by considering scientific data and suggestions of the Science Board".
Feedback from parents
Mentioning about feedback from parents through social media, Selçuk said, "They sometimes voice their anger or they convey their gratitude, in other words, they show that they are interested. We have contact centers and we are receiving millions of questions from parents. We have psychosocial support centers where parents can consult about their children's problems. We have two virtual robots and they have answered 46 million questions and our robot application won international awards."
Minister Selçuk went on to say that: "The Ministry of National Education considers the existing conditions and makes extraordinary decisions in case of extraordinary conditions."
"We have contacts in order to start vaccination process as soon as possible"
Concerning questions such as "Do you have plans to vaccinate teachers in order to return face to face education? Will vaccinating teachers be enough for face to face education? Do you plan to vaccinate other education workers?" Minister Selçuk said that the Ministry aims at creating a controlled area at schools adding that his Ministry has established contacts in order to start the vaccination process as soon as possible.
"Depending on the vaccination schedule, teachers will be vaccinated after seniors and health workers. Opening face to face education is one of the conditions of normalization. Due to this reason vaccinating teachers is a priority," stated Selçuk.
"We have a possibility table"
Answering a question does the Ministry plan to allow students to pass a higher grade without any examination, Minister Selçuk said, "This is one of the scenarios. We have a possibility table and we take decisions by consulting scientists and according to the conditions in the field."
Noting that the priority of the Ministry is the health of students, Selçuk stated, "We must take the health of our students, teachers and education workers under guarantee and the rest comes next.
We are ready to open face to face education but we are waiting for the confirmation from the scientists that there is no risk for our students, teachers and education workers."