As the coronavirus outbreak continues to dominate headlines, education is another field feeling the impact of social isolation. But on Monday, Turkey is set to launch digital education for millions of students so their learning will not be interrupted.
Turkey on March 13 suspended all education across the country as an early precaution to halt the spread of the coronavirus, after Ankara confirmed the nation’s first person had contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Shortly after the announcement, Education Minister Ziya Selçuk said remote education would be implemented to ensure students do not suffer, and lessons would be available online or on television.
Students will be able to benefit from the Education Information Network (EBA), where lessons can be monitored online with the participation of teachers and students, according to Selçuk, and six TV channels specially designated for educational use will operate until the end of the pandemic.
Depending on the grade and student, a variety of lessons such as Turkish, math, social and physical sciences, English, biology, and geography will be aired for 20 minutes, one after the other.
Lessons are set to start at 9 a.m. local time, and students will also have the opportunity to watch lessons later in the evening. Courses will also be available on the EBA website.
Yusuf Kıraç, deputy director-general of Turk Telekom Technology, said the company would help facilitate distance education in line with an agreement reached with the Education Ministry.
"There are 18 million students who will use this system, and the infrastructure of over 40,000 schools accessing the infrastructure is ensured by Türk Telekom," he said, while adding that 5 gigabytes of extra data cap would be provided to EBA users.
He noted that web traffic in Turkey would rise with the introduction of the online system, but Türk Telekom is fully prepared to meet the demand.
"As a national institution, it is part of our community responsibility to come up with solutions," he said.
Making the most of new system
Although officials do not expect infrastructure problems providing service to millions of students simultaneously, teachers and trainers warn that the change of educational environment might harm motivation.
"Many of the students will be taught online for the first time, and it might become a bit challenging for us to motivate them," said Mert Yılmaz, who has been teaching for five years.
"We cannot expect online or TV lessons to be as effective as our regular classes in the early days, but given the grave realities of coronavirus, it was a necessity. We will try to make the most out of them."
Yılmaz said parents' attitudes carry great importance for distance education, and they should not interrupt during lessons as this could harm the education environment and the learning process.
"I have called some parents already and told them not to serve food or anything during lessons. Just respect the lesson and prepare a convenient education atmosphere in a room," he said.
The English teacher also said he would be in close contact with his students and would monitor their development, arguing that this would help motivate students, some of whom might slack off.
High schooler Zeynep Kıran, 17, said she fears the lack of an authority figure to keep a check on behavior during lessons would disrupt their ability to learn, but added: "I think it's our responsibility to be all ears while watching online or TV lessons. After all, every new piece of information we learn prepares us for university exams and contributes to our knowledge."
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