A first world country in many respects, Turkey still struggles with dramatic inequalities in development. Unfortunately, the quality of education in Turkey’s many underdeveloped cities is very different from the more privileged parts. While there are 45 universities in Istanbul and 20 in Ankara, there is only one university in Agri and one in Hakkari. Even in Istanbul, there are many examples of schools with strikingly different levels of education.
If having access to knowledge and being educated are basic human rights, then how do we fix this problem in Turkey? In today’s digital age, the solution may be found in the “cloud.”
For the past two years, I have been sharing my lecture notes with my classmates over the Internet. If it is this easy to share knowledge on a digital platform, then why not use the same idea in a wider range, on a more regular basis?
A recently developed project in Turkey aims to create and share digital textbooks and lessons between schools across the country. Thanks to this new system, a student in the isolated south-eastern city of Hakkari access to the same class lecture that a privileged student in Istanbul or Ankara gets. Therefore, there will be a digital platform that gives youth the opportunity of receiving the same level of education.
This project has also certain requirements: all e-books and e-lessons must be prepared by an individual holding a Ph.D who has have to have taught or studied the course at a graduate or post-graduate level.
Bridging the Digital Divide
Is a digital platform, however, really the key to equality of education in Turkey, or is there a bigger matter that we must take into consideration? Even though a digital platform might make access to education much easier, a city must first have the technological prerequisites to support a project of this kind. In a nation where less than 45% of the population has access to the internet (compared t0 81% in the United States), and 2.6 million out of 18 million households has neither a computer nor Internet access, a digital textbook may prove of little use.
As a teenager of the twenty-first century and a student who attends a school attempting a digital education system, I can easily say that eliminating textbooks completely and transitioning to a radical techno-education format is not easy. It requires a certain amount of time, and in order to have a functional system, every single student must have the same technological opportunities. As great and hopeful as digital education platform sounds, is Turkey really capable of this? Will it be possible to supply the necessary technological devices to everyone?
It has been decided that TUBITAK (the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey) will pay 120,000 Turkish Liras (about 61,000 USD) in total to people who prepare e-books and e-lessons. Why not use some of this money to help the schools in need of technological equipment? Or, the city hall each school belongs to could raise the needed money. Or maybe, instead of donating old textbooks or school materials to these schools, old computers could be donated.
In addition, in cities like Hakkari, even though it is not very common for houses and schools to have Wi-Fi, there are plenty of cafés that provide computers and access to Internet. So even though this project could be difficult to get used to, if the right amount of effort and support is put into finding solutions to the difficulties along the way, the long-term results could be very effective.
There are already successful examples such as iTunes U and Khan Academy that provide a worldwide digital education platform in the English language. If it’s possible to create this system on a worldwide basis, then it should be possible to create something similar on a national scale. This project will not, of course, suddenly end the inequality in Turkey.
Nonetheless, if it manages to function successfully, then at least people will be given an equal chance of accessing knowledge.