UNITE FOR CHILDREN-- UNICEF

A Gender Review in Education, Turkey 2003 (10)

Analysis of Results (1)

Primary school students assemble for the opening ceremony on their first day back at school, September 2004

Statistics reflect that illiteracy and relatively low school enrolment rates continue to be a problem. Photograph by Çetin Akcan © UNICEF Turkey 2003

Education in Turkey in the 2000’s

Despite the fact that various laws and regulations have supported basic education in Turkey since Ottoman times, the state of education remains a barrier to development -- especially with respect to women. Following the proclamation of the Turkish Republic, primary education was declared to be compulsory and this status was subsequently secured by Article 42 of the 1982 Constitution. However, statistics reflect that illiteracy and relatively low school enrolment rates continue to be a problem. Gender differences in literacy (80.6% for women as opposed to 93.9% for men according to the 2000 census) and current school enrolment rates (91.8% for girls and 100% boys at the primary level) show inequality in access to education.

Gender differences are greater in rural than in urban areas. Of women in urban areas, 16.6% cannot read or write and as much as 30.8% of their rural counterparts are illiterate while only 3.9% of urban and 9% of rural men are illiterate. Migration from the eastern to western region, usually from rural to urban settlements, is still common in Turkey so the problem of female illiteracy is carried to towns. Large numbers of rural migrants settle in the squatter areas or gecekondular quarters of many Turkish cities. Consequently female illiteracy and lack of access to education constitutes a serious problem in these areas (State Institute of Statistics (SIS) 2003).

Regional distribution of female illiteracy is another point which deserves attention: illiteracy rates show a decline from the Southeast to Northwestern region. The most striking illiteracy rate is observed in the Southeast where 39% of women are illiterate, followed by the East and Black Sea regions where rates are 35% and 21% respectively. (MONE 2003).

Despite stipulations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Education for All (EFA), illiteracy rates in Turkey show that the obligation to ensure equal access to education for women has not been fulfiled by the State.

The Basic Education Programme

The 1990’s have witnessed great strides in overcoming problems related to education in Turkey. In August 1997, Parliament approved a new Basic Education Law (4306) which extended the duration of compulsory schooling from five to eight years and mandated improvements in the quality and relevance of basic education. Implementation of the Basic Education Programme was facilitated by the extension of a World Bank loan to supplement governmental funds and donations.

The fundamental targets of the Basic Education Programme are summarised as follows:

  1. Expanding eight year continuous primary education;
  2. Increasing the quality of primary education;
  3. Making the system more efficient (EFA 2000 Assessment, Country Report, Turkey).

Since the Programme’s inception, the net enrolment rate in basic education has increased from 75.6% to 91.8%. Girls’ enrolment rates in rural areas show the most rapid progress where enrolment in grade six (the first of the extended years) increased by 162% in the first year of the Programme. Since then rates have continued to improve. (UNICEF 2002)

The Ministry of National Education (MONE) have constructed new basic education classrooms, 13 regional boarding schools (11 of which are exclusively for girls) and schools with hostels (pension schools) creating additional capacity for more than 3,000,000 students in basic education. Complete sets of free textbooks are provided for needy students in basic education in 36 provinces. Free school meals are being served to basic education students in the school-bussing programme, basic education students in boarding schools and also for students in the Marmara earthquake region. Also 635,000 students from villages where schools cannot accommodate the 6th to 8th grades are daily transported to larger population centres where such schools are available.

In 2002, the Social Solidarity and Assistance Fund (SYDTF) distributed financial aid to families of students from the lowest 6% income group in six provinces as an incentive to promote school attendance.

Meanwhile MONE has provided computers as part of a plan to equip all basic education schools with facilities for ICT. TQM applications have begun on a limited scale and a high percentage of administrators and teachers have attended in-service training courses -- especially those courses which focus on teaching methods and information technologies. The success of such measures are reflected in enrolment rates for 2001-2002 (Table 1).

Table 1: Net Enrolment rates in Education, 2002-2003
Net Enrolment 2002-20031 Total Girls Boys Gender Gap
Preschool 7.6% 7.3% 7.8% 0.5%
Primary 96.3% 91.8% 100% 8.2%
Secondary 66% 57.2% 74.3% 17.1%
Tertiary 34.9% 29.7% 39.9% 10.2%

1 MONE, Research, Planning and Coordination Committee 2003.

At present, pre-school education is available for only a limited number of children. Within the framework of the Basic Education Project, some 1,900 village schools which became redundant following the transport of children to central schools by the State are now being re-used for pre-school education. Furthermore various education programmes have been initiated with contributions from NGOs.

Figures show that the work undertaken has led to a considerable increase in enrolment and literacy rates. For example the illiteracy rate has been reduced from 17% in 1990 to 13.5% in 2002. SIS figures also indicate a considerable increase in enrolment rates for girls and boys in primary schools. Table 2 shows rates of primary school enrolment over the past five academic years.

Table 2: Net Enrolment rates in Primary Education, 1997-2002
Net Enrolment2 Total Girls Boys Gender Gap
1997-1998 81% 75.6% 86.3% 10.7%
1998-1999 83.6% 75.8% 91% 15.2%
1999-2000 90.7% 85.7% 95.5% 9.8%
2000-20013 90.8% 87.8% 93.6% 5.8%
2001-20024 89.8% 87% 92.4% 5.4%

2 SIS 2003. Note: For the 2002-2003 academic year, the Ministry of Education gives these figures as 96.3% for the total, 100% for boys (due to repetition) and 91.8% for girls. If the repetition figure is excluded, the gender gap is 4.5%.

3 Temporary data, SIS 2001.

4 ibidem

The tenth part of A Gender Review in Education, Turkey 2003, Analysis of Results continues on the following page.

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