About 18 million students and more than a million teachers started the new school year today in Turkey. The new semester opened amid promise of reforms for the country's education system, which has undergone countless changes since the foundation of Republic of Turkey in 1923.
In many cities, schools will open with songs performed by students of Fine Arts in a bid to stave off the first day at school scare for primary school students.
Security measures were also elevated nationwide to prevent school bus accidents and police officers will be deployed in the vicinity of schools. The Interior Ministry will also deploy police officers at schools throughout the school year, especially to prevent drug dealers targeting schoolchildren.
The government recently announced a 100-day action plan for education, after Ziya Selçuk, the first education minister in years to have a background in the education sector, was appointed in largely technocrat government last summer. The plan aims to integrate more schools to a new system cutting long school hours for millions of students and seeks to introduce new steps assessing students' success based on their skills and interests rather than grades.
In his written message on the occasion of the new school year, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hinted at "historical changes" in education. "With a new administration, we entered a new era and we are preparing for historical changes in education. I believe these reforms to better raise our children will be achieved," Erdoğan said in his message, noting that families and teachers had great responsibilities in improving education.
In the past decade, Turkey saw a major overhaul of its education system, from more online access for schools and the landmark FATİH project where students were handed tablet computers for the reduction of overcrowded classrooms. Still, the system suffers from a mishmash of almost yearly changes in exams.