The Ministry of National Education reversed its decision to shut down preschools on Friday and greenlit reopening next week amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The government announced earlier this week that all schools would switch to online education after a rise in the number of COVID-19 patients. Education Minister Ziya Selçuk, however, sent a circular to local education directorates in 81 provinces on Friday to partially reverse the decision.
“As part of consultations between our ministry and relevant agencies, it was considered to be appropriate to continue in-person education for five days a week in all public and private preschools,” the statement by Selçuk said.
Unlike other schools, which will remain closed until Jan. 4, preschools will be allowed to hold in-person education, with six classes every day. Each class, or “activity hour” as it is officially called, will last for 30 minutes. Parents who do not prefer sending their children to school will have access to online educational materials for those students.
Schools were opened for in-person education amid tight hygiene measures in September at a time when the pandemic trends saw a drop. The country had kick-started a multiphased plan to reopen schools, reintroducing students back to classrooms grade-by-grade. While the Education Ministry was in the final phase of its plan to fully reopen schools, with no major outbreaks reported among the students, the general outlook of the worsening coronavirus crisis forced the government to revert back to online education before schools were set to reopen next Monday after a weeklong recess.
Ziya Selçuk told public broadcaster TRT Haber on Friday that the resumption of in-person education was “a dynamic process” necessitating constant reevaluation based on data on the pandemic. “Schools have been more controlled environments, and we had the opportunity to monitor everyone daily, from students to parents, from teachers to school bus drivers (against the coronavirus). Yet, the possibility of risk from a general increase in the number of patients arose,” he said.
Selçuk said a similar road map that is gradual and based on the outbreak trends will be followed after the scheduled resumption of in-person education on Jan. 4. “Nothing is more important than the health of students and teachers while assessing the criteria for reopening,” he said.
Educational institutions will now focus on live, online classes with the support of the Education Information Network (EBA), an ambitious government project that started out as a simple portal for teachers. After the pandemic broke out, it was improved to ensure access to online classes for millions of students and was coupled with new TV stations founded exclusively for online education. For those without access to the internet or computers, the government delivers tablet computers and sets up EBA Support Points, which are small classrooms furnished with computers.