It’s easy to see that citizens in different areas of Turkey do not exactly live under the same circumstances, and while there are developed cities, there are also quite a few underdeveloped ones. Unfortunately, the quality of education in these parts of Turkey is also very different from the luckier parts. While there are 45 universities in Istanbul and 20 in Ankara, there is only one university in Agri and one in Hakkari. Not just in different parts of Turkey, even in Istanbul by itself, there are many examples of schools with very 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?
The idea is simple – so simple that may be regarded foolish. I let you decide.
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 project that has recently started being developed in Turkey aims to create digital textbooks and lessons, and to share these with schools all over the country. With this new system, a student in Hakkari or Agri can get the same class lecture that a lucky student in Istanbul or Ankara gets. Therefore, there will be a digital platform that gives youth the opportunity of getting the same education. This project has also certain requirements: The people who will prepare these e-books and e-lessons, have to have a PhD and have to have taught or studied the course they are preparing on a graduate or post graduate level.
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, there are also other issues worth considering. Perhaps the first question that comes to mind is if the cities in Turkey that suffer from this inequality really have the necessary digital equipment that will support a system like this. Even in my school this year, we encountered a couple of problems related to this issue. 9th graders prepared digital lessons for students in hospitals, but could not send the prepared podcasts via a newly formed web site because the hospitals did not have wi-fi available to patients. Everything had to be made into DVDs and sent out to them. Also, the coordinators of an organization had to contact a school in Mardin, but this was very difficult since the school only had one computer and everyone took turns to use it. So perhaps it is safe to say that a digital education platform that aims to reach all of the cities in the country will encounter similar difficulties.
As a teenager of 21st century and a student who goes to a school with a digital education system, – both teachers and students upload homeworks on a website in which everything from the meal plan to our grades is available – I can easily say that getting rid of all of the textbooks completely and suddenly getting used to a radical techno-education format is not easy. It requires a certain amount of time, and in order to have a system that completely works, every single student must have the same technological opportunity. 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 (Scientific and Technological Research Council) 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 this money. Or maybe, instead of donating old textbooks or school materials to these schools, old computers could be donated. Also, in cities like Hakkari, even though it is not very common for houses and schools to have wi-fi, there are plenty of cafes that provide computers and 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 consequences could be very effective.
There are already successful examples such as iTunes U and Khan Academy that provide a worldwide digital education platform in English. If it’s possible to create this system on a worldwide basis, then it should be possible to create something similar in one country. This project will not, of course, suddenly end the inequality in Turkey. However, if it manages to function successfully, then at least people will be given an equal chance of accessing knowledge.