MINISTER SELÇUK ANSWERED QUESTIONS DURING LIVE TV PROGRAMMinister of National Education Ziya Selçuk answered questions by journalists Hakan Çelik and Göksu Öngören Özgür during a live CNN Turk TV program entitled, "What is going on?" Concerning the resumption of face to face education, Minister Selçuk stated that the ministry already made a decision of principle to open schools on February 15 adding that, "We have the experience from the past about how to do this such as gradual opening face to face education for certain grades or diving classes into two... We have various different scenarios, we implemented some and there are still others that we did not implement."
Minister of National Education Ziya Selçuk answered questions during a live CNN Turk TV program entitled, "What is going on?" Concerning face the face education, Selçuk said, "There were intense arguments whether we should open face to face education or not at the beginning but now there is a serious expectation to open schools. We consulted with the Ministry of Health, the Science Board and the Cabinet under the leadership of our President regarding this issue. As a principle, we want to open face to face education. When we take a look at other countries, we see that we managed this process with control. We already took a decision in principle to open schools on February 15 adding that, "We have the experience from the past about how to do this such as gradual opening face to face education for certain grades or diving classes into two... We have various different scenarios, we implemented some and there are still others that we did not implement."
Selçuk stated that the final decision about how the Ministry will open face to face education on February 15 can be planned two weeks before this date.
"It seems unlikely for the Science Board to suggest opening face to face education for all grades according to the course of the pandemic. When we consider the recent literature, we see that there is lower risk for younger children. But we did not open face to face education for 7th and 10th grade students... We must prioritize these students. Students who will enter examinations for higher education institutions would like to have face to face lessons with their teachers. We also made different plans for them. We will decide to implement one of these plans after consulting with the Science Board and according to the course of the pandemic."
Minister Selçuk pointed out that teachers will be vaccinated after health workers in an effort to provide safe and healthier environment at schools.
Examinations and record cards
"There will not be face to face examinations in primary and secondary schools. Actually, our plans were different. 40 percent of students had face to face examinations but schools were closed again just before we organized examinations for the remaining 60 percent. Teachers gave grades according to the participation of students to the classes, performance, homework and projects. We distributed digital records online."
Opening digital education to the people from all over the country"
Selçuk pointed out that the Ministry has published a 1000 page magazine that focused on the "pandemic and education" and it included many studies and researches.
"We value these kinds of research and studies. Sciencists all over the country are making studies about the pandemic and education. We support them. Every country especially all developed countries have an education portal but our EBA ranked first in the world. We have to increase the number of existing 3 million live lessons to 4,5 million. After the end of pandemic, we are going to need an education program which can be used by all people," said Selçuk.
Answering a question about the performance of teachers during distance education, Selçuk underlined that distance education is harder than face to face education not only for teachers but also for students and their parents.
Minister Selçuk pointed out that this period had a positive outcome for teachers adding that pandemic and distance education allowed teachers to develop their digital skills.
Selçuk reminded that in the past years, approximately 30 thousand teachers were completing online professional improvement trainings every year and this figure exceeded 800 thouand this year.
"Right now, we do not have any measures about mass transportation of students"
Answering a question if the pandemic made an important contribution to the digitalization of Turkey, Selçuk said an obligatory process was experienced in the entire world.
"It was crucial for our students to get distance education and spend some of their times in the workshops, deal with sports and artistic activities and this is the direction we are heading," stated Selçuk.
Concerning the transportation of students after opening schools gradually for face to face education, Minister Selçuk underlined that majority of students are using school buses and the Ministry of National Education has been allocating vehicles for mobile teaching.
Selçuk reminded that the Ministry has been monitoring health of every bus driver by using HES codes but said the Ministry has not taken any measures regarding mass transportation of students right now.
"The ministry has tested attacks as a pilot project for cyber security"
Answering a question about syber security, Minister Selçuk went on to say that, "In 2019, we established the Cyber Security Portal. Every student, their parents and our teachers know the meaning of cyber security, how they maintain cyber security when they use EBA portal and QR codes. Meanwhile related offices and agencies are momentarily controlling any unauthorized accession attempts and intervene in case of a cyber attack. We have several different protection walls and some software to prevent theft and attempted attacks attempt. The ministry has attempted to launch attacks as a pilot project for test purposes. We also get support from authorized agencies for the protection of our digital data."
"We have to understand the hardships of families"
A journalist asked: "Some agencies such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF published reports stating that closing schools must be the last resort. France closed down schools for a very short period of time. Are there any European Country that halted face to face education as long as we did?"
Minister Selçuk responded; "health experts of different countries have different views and some countries issued official documents stating that closing face to face education for primary and secondary school students was not necessary. Younger children have lower risk but they might transmit the virus. We kept preschool grades open but now it is beyond health problem. We must understand the hardships of families."
"Our definite approach is to open face to face education"
Stating that since the beginning of pandemic, the Ministry wanted to keep face to face education open, Selçuk said, "Our concern was the health of teachers and students. We believe that we can open schools in places where there is lower risk. I am aware that especially mothers are having a difficult time. They have a historial duty and their contribution to their children is very important for the country. We know they are tired. This process showed us that schools are the place of training as well as place of education."
"Digital diet" suggestion to children
Concerning a question if he had any suggestions for children about how to spend their 20 day long semester holiday, Minister Selçuk advised children to make digital diet and stay away from computers during the holiday.
"We have prepared holiday books for our students that include activities and fun facts. These will be distributed to students until the end of this week," said Selçuk.
Meanwhile, Selçuk also mentioned about the education of childen of refugee families and noted that thera are approximately 1 million refugee children at school age and 720 thousand of them are getting education.
Noting that there are national and international projects about these children, Selçuk stated that the Ministry has been working in an effort to teach Turkish to these students.
Digital report cards
Minister Selçuk said that the Ministry distributed digital report cards online.
Answering a question about the biggest problem of education system, Selçuk said that their approach is to see problems as an opportunity to suggest solutions adding that education in Turkey has been improving in the light of statistical data.
"There was an important improvement in terms of schools and infrastructure during the AK Party governments. We have appointed 700 thousand new teachers. We have been witnessing increase in the quality of education in the international level.
"Design Skill Workshops are the medicine of integrated education"
Selçuk said that students should get integrated education that considers their emotional, physical and intellectural needs and design skill workshops are the medicine of such education. Noting that preschool children should attend drama, arts and robotic workshops and learn chess and similar activities, Selçuk reminded that the Ministry has opened 10 thousand workshops and plans to open more this year.
"The number of these workshops must be at least 100 thousand. Students will learn their talents in these workshops and choose their future professions," said Selçuk.
Minister of National Education stated that contribution of private sector in vocational training is very important.
Concerning teacher appointments, Selçuk said that the Ministry could not take such decisions on its own and appointments are related to general financial policies and budget.
"We are working about appointment with related offices and institutions as well as the Ministry of Finance. We will share the information about appointments as soon as we reach an agreement," said Minister Selçuk.
Noting that the Ministry employed 41 thousand new teachers in 2020, Selçuk stated that the cabinet decides on the appointments depending on the general budget.
"Private school tuitions"
Answering a question if private schools and private courses can be opened depending on the demand of parents, Minister Selçuk responded, "Our goal is to open all schools at the first possible opportunity."
Concerning private school tuitions, Selçuk said, "Schools are taking their own measures and we took measures about Value Added Tax (VAT). Private school administrations are having constant contacts with parent and we are monitoring which schools made reductions in the tuition fee and which schools took required measures."
Earthquake preparedness at schools
Answering a question whether schools are ready against a possible earthquake, Minister Selçuk underlined that his Ministry is very sensitive about this issue and they either demolished or fortified buildings which are risky or older than certain age in cooperation with the universities, private sector and various different agencies.
"We are carrying out a project with the World Bank for fortifying school buildings. Our main goal is to complete this project in cooperation with the TOKİ. Our President had directed us to prioritize schools located in certain cities such as İstanbul," added Selçuk.