Modification or Destruction? A Debate on the New Education System

By introducing the 4+4+4 system, the AKP Government decreased the elementary education period to four years, and paved the way for the secondary education of Religious Vocational High Schools.

All developed countries agree upon the importance and priority of education. The education system in all countries tends to target raising conscious citizens and qualified labor force. Education is not just an issue of today; it rather designs the future. In this reference frame, a sound basic education process, which provides children with literacy, critical thinking, and lifelong learning skills is required. Maximizing the potential young generations, which is the greatest source Turkey’s wealth, depends on education of children and youth in the best and most effective way.

However it is highly doubtful that the recent modifications regarding Turkey’s education system by Justice and Development Party (AKP) will serve such a cause. At first glance the modifications which are now in effect seem to render a twelve-year compulsory education, rather than eight of the previous system. In fact, it appears that the main purpose of the new arrangements is to divide the previous eight-year compulsory elementary education, rather than extending the compulsory education period.

Eight-year continuous education stands for the application of the same curriculum in all schools. In the previous system, information necessary for cognitive development is provided to all students of the same age group without any discrimination among the children. The AKP Government, by introducing the 4+4+4 system, which is implemented in only seven countries throughout the world, decreased the elementary education period to four years, and paves the way for different curricula in the second four-year period -and especially for the secondary education of Imam Hatip Schools (Religious Vocational High School) and an intensive religious education after a certain phase.

Marked with many uncertainties, The 4+4+4 system, serves not to the objective of higher quality and greater equality in education but to the satisfaction of the ideological obsessions of the higher administration of AKP.


The specialists point out that the two basic objectives of education in Turkey should be equality and improving the quality of the schools. Making this the mission and starting point of Turkish schooling, the increase of the compulsory education period to 12 years can be welcome. However, the indispensable condition here is long term continuous and well structured elementary education. In countries with continuous education, the indications of education and welfare proceed in a parallel fashion.

Another issue that should be considered as important as continuous education is the timeline of the education system. School is not only an institution for providing knowledge, it is at the same time a socialization milieu. Along with cognitive skills, there stands many activities that aim to improve citizenship, sociability, and personality. Therefore, in all the developed countries, the time spent in school is both increased and enhanced.

The socialization of children starts at family and continues with the teacher at school. In elder ages, the relations among the peers become critically significant. In this process the student constructs its personality by perceiving individual and social differences. School time is very important for the development of the personality and social identity of the student. Therefore the time spared for school must be increased for success in education.

Excluding education from the school milieu creates a big obstacle before health socialization of students. For instance, a problem that may rise due to this application is that children with superior intelligence and disabilities might receive open education. Coalescence and integration is a critical objective for such children. It is inevitable that separation of these students will lead to their marginalization and exclusion from society.

The specialists point out that the two basic objectives of education in Turkey should be the equality in learning and improving the quality of the schools.

Enforcing the criteria that children must have turned 60 months to start elementary education may create grave results. The cognitive and physical development of a child at said age is far from satisfying the needs of school education. The hand and arm muscles and bones are even not developed to hold a pencil in the first sixty months. Children of said age group must be referred to special classroom milieu with preschool education logic. On the other hand the instructors of our country involved in the elementary education do not have sufficient knowledge and experience to educate 5-year age category.

As it is known , the AKP Government entirely excludes from the debate of quality in education issue. School construction is prioritized rather than investing on human resources and especially teachers. A gain based vision underlies this approach. AKP Government’s exclusion from the Public Procurement Law, of the expenditures from tablet PCs to technological infrastructure, as required in the frame of Fatih project and the arrangements providing the division of elementary education, is the indication of the fact that the Government considers to obtain gains rather than ensuring improvement in the field of education.

Such an issue of education that requires long term planning and that of prime importance for the future of our children and our country was not negotiated at National Education Forum. Furthermore, it was not involved in the election statement and Government Program of AKP. There is not even a scintilla of information in development plans and Ministry of National Education (MEB) strategic plan. It was prepared without consulting with students, parents, and teachers primarily, and with NGOs and political parties. The parliamentary members elected by people could not have a say at the Education Commission of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM), and articles passed in just one minute each.


Marked with many uncertainties, The 4+4+4 system, serves not to the objective of higher quality and greater equality in education but to the satisfaction of the ideological obsessions of the higher administration of AKP.

Low quality and increased inequality are the two basic problems of the education system in Turkey. The eight-year education application rendered significant success in Turkey. The schooling rate has increased significantly in the last fifteen years. The basic reason of this success is that the system is continuous and applied in the scope of formal education.

Inequality has become the distinctive feature of education in Turkey. In major cities there are schools which bring up successful students with the contribution of families, in accordance with the international scales. However the majority of the schools suffer from great problems arisen from social environment and physical infrastructure.

In the 21st Century, the quality of the labor force demand and the qualities that must be held by the labor force change rapidly. For the greater majority of the employees, the possibility of spending all their lives in the same work place, in the same sector increasingly ceases to exist. The new business sectors rather require employees with critical thinking, advanced problem-solving skills, creativity, communication skills, and especially familiarity with the digital field. The basic attribute sought for in the labor force is not specific specialty but skills that can be extended to, and transformed in a wide range. Even in the advanced ages, people that can perform the needs of the new occupation after a short training are required. Many occupations that existed just on years ago now cease to exist. It is considered that many currently valid occupations will disappear in ten years. All these changes show that apprenticeship training cannot be the general approach to vocational education.

The problems of vocational education in Turkey and the need for qualified labor force cannot be solved by shortening the compulsory education and turning the time of selecting a profession back to an early stage. On the contrary, turning the time back will deepen our problems in vocational education. Moreover many young people will face to wrong preferences at an early age. If the vocational education does not start after a minimum of eight year compulsory elementary education, this will transform Turkey into a country that brings up unqualified labor force with regard to the world standards.

Some basic steps that must be taken in education in order for Turkey can be included in the successful examples list are as follows:

The contribution fee required from the parents must be abandoned in order to realize free education as provided as a right in the Constitution;

Dual education must be abolished and “fulltime” education must be introduced in all education stages;

The qualities of teachers and administrators should be enhanced in order to enable them to comply with the changing world conditions and developing technology;

“Multi-grade class” application conducted in crowded groups must be ended;

Infrastructural differences among the schools must be decreased, and along with the improvements in the technological infrastructure, development of playgrounds and sports fields, gardens, classrooms, and cultural activities must be prioritized for the multi-aspect progress of children.

On the other hand, free preschool education, including one-year compulsory attendance, must be spread and the total time period of compulsory education must be increased in Turkey. Introduction of continuous elementary education stage is a sine qua non priority. Placing the “general secondary education” and “vocational-technical secondary education” main structures at the end of eight years, i.e. the high school phase is necessary for the children can make right life preferences and bringing up employees with the qualities required by the labor force demand.

Enhancing the quality and decreasing the inequalities in education must be the basic objective. The education model recommended for the said purpose is one-year preschool education, eight-year continuous elementary education, and four-year high school education, involving vocational education -in other words, 1+8+4 model. The education system to be enforced by the AKP Government will destroy the equality of opportunities and deepen the class differences.


About Figen Şardağ

Banker, Financial Analyst