While over 1.5 billion students worldwide are deprived of face-to-face education due to coronavirus lockdowns, Turkey has become the second country after China to introduce nationwide distance education.
In an exclusive interview with Daily Sabah, Education Minister Ziya Selçuk said, “We made a worldwide success at the Education Ministry. In terms of remote education, there are no countries besides China and Turkey that provide nationwide education to all its people. China has a system called ‘Cloud Classroom’ that offers remote and instantaneous education to more than 100 million people.” The minister added that Turkey is continuing to invest in and strengthen its infrastructure. “We do this in order for the Turkish education system to transform and be updated according to the spirit of the times,” he said.
According to data compiled by Anadolu Agency (AA), the novel coronavirus has hampered education in 184 countries for over 1.5 billion students – 87% of students across the globe. While many countries shut down schools in a bid to counter the outbreak, Turkey and China were among the few that immediately moved into online or remote education initiatives. The country's 18 million students are receiving school lessons online and on TV, through the nation's Education Information Network (EBA) and public broadcaster TRT EBA.
Equal standards in rural, urban areas
The EBA ensures that each student can easily access quality education, which guarantees fairness, Selçuk said.
“A child in a Izmir and one in a village in Şırnak’s or a youngster in a small district in Urfa and one in Istanbul can have the same educational opportunities and they can receive it without socioeconomic obstacles. We provide equal standards for students and teachers in all parts of Turkey,” the minister said, adding that a school in the middle of the city and a school in mountainous areas are just one step away now.
Students can access 1,600 lessons, as well as more than 20,000 interactive types of content. Turkey's top three mobile operators also provide students with 8 gigabytes of free internet data so they can access online lessons.
EBA quality yet to enhance
The EBA will be enhanced every day with new applications, the minister said. In addition to the standard curriculum, it has already integrated arts, sports and scientific activities into the system.
“Our children can feel safe and be assured that this whole process in under the control of our government. We established an EBA control center for solving problems that occur due to the millions of children using the system at the same time. We have 24/7 technical teams in our centers to instantly resolve any problems,” Selçuk elaborated, saying that there are certainly a few deficiencies, but these will be addressed shortly.
The Education Ministry also set up a “psycho-social support center” for students and their families to help alleviate the impact of outbreak. A hotline staffed by counselors in every province offers advice about all kinds of psycho-social needs of children.
“In addition, there are videos made by experts for parents regarding special education for unique children, such as those with autism or hyperactivity,” the minister pointed out.
Selçuk also has some advice for parents and students: “Our children have to read books during this process. Do not forget that every book will contribute to your future career, family life and friendships. Watch movies, listen to quality music and be restrained regarding social media.”
The EBA platform has school books, interactive books, applications and tests as well as videos with interactive content, researches, summaries, info graphics, project documents, content for teachers and much more. At least 5,000 books and 240,000 questions for the use of teachers are available on the system.
The system is also testing "live classes," where both lecturers and students can see each other, with over 2.7 million students set to join such classes if the pilot proves effective.
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