Many projects have been carried out by Turkey to preserve the academic heritage in the Middle East, a region seriously affected by instability and war, a member of the executive committee of the Council of Turkish Higher Education (YÖK) said Monday. Speaking to Daily Sabah on the sidelines of a symposium organized by the Hasan Kalyoncu University Migration Research Center (KalMIREC) in southeastern Gaziantep province, Zeliha Koçak Tufan said, "We have Syrian academic members in almost every university, and there are many among them that are research fellows." She added that there are hundreds of scientists, but foreigners working in Turkish universities number around 350-400, with some working on contract and some that obtained Turkish citizenship. Within the scope of the preservation of the academic heritage, Turkey tries to protect knowledge and culture on the brink of disappearing due to war and conflict. Hundreds of scientists in the world of academia were forced to flee their countries, hundreds of research projects were left half-finished and thousands of young students with hope for a better future had to postpone their education. With facilitating processes for migrants and aiding their integration, Turkey enables refugees to resume their work and education. "It is not only buildings that are destroyed in Syria; the academic culture as well is destroyed. We do not want a lost generation," Tufan said. Accordingly, she explained that in order to pave the way for the continuation of the education of refugees, Turkey has started accepting transferred credits for classes they have taken before. Yet, obtaining a diploma equivalency certificate or forming teams to work together can sometimes take time, Tufan said.
"The number of Syrian refugee students (in higher education) is nearly 30,000. These are important numbers but compared to the Syrian community living in Turkey, this number could be higher," she said. While Turkey is hosting the greatest number of Syrian refugees in the world with around 3.7 million, it is home to 1,082,172 Syrian students that are at the age to receive education and under temporary protection. According to the data of the Education Ministry as of November 2019, some 684,728, or 63.27%, of students under temporary protection are included in the education system, while the students' enrollment procedures continue. The schooling rate of students studying at official schools and temporary education centers according to their stages of education is 30,678 (27.19%) for preschool, 341,325 (89.27%) for elementary school, 224,365 (70.50%) for secondary school and 88,360 (32.88%) for high school. Underlining that Syrian students go through the same procedure as other foreign students, Tufan said: "They enroll in universities as foreign students. We try to facilitate their integration with the cooperation of migration research centers." Indicating that Syrian scientists living in Turkey engage in several fields of study, Tufan added: "Refugee is just one word but within it, there are doctors, engineers, biologists ... There are people who earned their doctorates abroad in countries like Italy or Spain. They were a community like us before the war." Another participant of the symposium, Muna Ismail, program manager for the Initiative of Change (IofC) in the U.K., pointed out, "When refugees are given the opportunity to receive an education in their host countries, one day they would be able to return to Syria and be the rebuilders of their country." Academic heritage flourishes and is revived in Turkey through the efforts of the scientific heritage project that tries to keep the knowledge of thousands of years alive while also raising awareness in the West with conferences and panels. Toward this aim, panels have been organized in several countries, including Brussels, New York and Berlin.
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