Preprimary & Primary Education
Preschool education begins at birth and ends when the child is six years old. The Ministry of National Education recognizes that education provided during these years affects the development of the child in later years and acknowledges this is an important stage of education, but attending a preschool program is not compulsory.
According to the Basic Law on National Education, the goals of preschool education are to provide for children's physical, mental, and spiritual development; to the help them acquire good habits; to prepare them for the compulsory primary education program; to provide children with a common education opportunity, regardless of the family income or environment; the ensure that children speak the Turkish language correctly and fluently. The Regulation on Preschool Education Institutions covers public and private programs affiliated with the Ministry of National Education.
Optional paid preschool education programs were established in 1953. Preschool programs are most common in large cities, where, since the 1980s, they have been increasing in popularity. Beginning with the 1994-1995 school year, the Ministry of National Education in cooperation with universities and other institutions, designated three primary types of preschool programs: kres and yuva (day nurseries), anaokulu (kindergartens), and anasinifi (preschool classes). The day nurseries are for children from birth to 36 months old. Kindergartens are for children 37 months to 60 months old, and preschool classes are for those 67 months to 72 months old. In addition, private preschool institutions provide both full-day and half-day programs. In the 1998-1999 school year, there were 207,319 students enrolled in 7,946 preschools, and there were 11,825 teachers.
The goal of Turkey's preschool education program is to prepare children for primary school by developing their mental and physical abilities as well as their language skills. The Ministry of National Education regulates preschool programs and determines whether or not additional programs are needed in an area. More parents are learning about the benefits of preschool programs and enrolling their children in one of the programs.
There are some government funded parenting programs. Mothers of preschool aged children (birth-2, 2-4, 4-6) attend classes to learn about childcare, child development, nutrition, immunization, accident prevention and first aid, parent-child relationships, and similar topics. The goal of the program is to help mothers become more involved with their children's needs and realize the importance of preschool education.
The ministry's goal is to increase the number of students enrolled in preschool programs to 16 percent by the end of 2000. To provide for the projected increase in preschool enrollments, an amendment to the Regulations for Private Educational Institutions requires each primary school to have at least one preschool class. The ministry is also working toward development and standardization of preschool educational materials and equipment.
Preschool education is compulsory for children diagnosed as having certain physical or mental disabilities. Each child has an individual training plan. Parents work with the teachers at each phase of the child's education.
Primary education covers education and training of children aged six to fourteen. Primary education is compulsory for all citizens and is offered free of charge at state schools, but parents must buy the schools uniforms, books, and school supplies. The Ministry of National Education oversees the primary education program and establishes guidelines for passing classes, exams, and attendance. Prior to 1982, students began the primary program at age seven. Turkey has allocated the funds necessary to build additional schools and hire the teachers needed for the compulsory eight-year primary school program. In the 1998-1999 school year, there were 9,512,044 students enrolled in 44,525 primary schools, and there were 316,991 teachers. The success of Turkey's primary education program is evident: in 2000, only 3 percent of males aged fifteen to nineteen were illiterate, and only 10 percent of females in this age bracket were illiterate.
The primary program's objective is to provide children with the knowledge and skills needed for further education or skill training and with the behaviors and habits of good citizens. The goals of Turkey's primary education program focus on creating the type of educational environment in which students learn subject matter knowledge and information about Turkish society; develop a comprehensive, broad view of the world; become knowledgeable about information technologies; and develop interpersonal skills. Parental involvement is important because the family is viewed as an integral component of the education system.
Students in the primary education program are expected to complete one grade level each year; thus the program covers grades one to eight. They are graded on a scale of 1-5. A grade of 2 is the minimum passing score. Those who successfully complete the primary program receive the Ilkögretim Diplomasi (Basic Education Diploma). The countywide average rate of repetition for grades one five was 5.7 percent in 1997. There was no significant difference in the number of males being retained and the number of females. The eighth grade repetition rate in 1997 was 3.1 percent for males and 2.1 percent for females.
The Ministry of National Education must approve all materials used in schools. Students' textbooks and worksheets as well as teachers' resources are prepared by the Ministry, which also develops and prescribes the curricula. All primary schools offer the same courses which include Turkish language and literature; mathematics; social studies; science; civics and human rights; the history of the Turkish Republic and Atatürk's reforms; a foreign language (English, French, or German); individual and group activities; religious culture and ethics; art/handicraft; music; physical education; traffic safety and first aid; career guidance; and elective course.
When Law Number 4306 was passed in 1997 changing the primary education program to a compulsory program for six to fourteen year olds, the Basic Education Program was initiated. This program's purpose is to prepare Turkey's schools for the twenty-first century. It is increasing the coverage and quality of primary education, promoting the public's interest in primary education, and making primary schools learning centers for their communities. Because of the program's goals, many improvements are ongoing. Computer laboratories are being installed in all primary schools and there is a transition to computer-assisted education. All primary education teachers are becoming computer literate and learning how to integrate computer-aided instruction into the curriculum. New schools are being constructed or renovated in rural areas. The program also contains an Açik Ilkögretim Okulu (Open Basic Education School) that allows students fifteen years of age and older to complete their education as external students.
The Contemporary Education Project 2000 has been implemented to improve primary education program. Class size is being reduced to thirty pupils. Some students that live in sparsely populated rural areas and attend schools with multi-grade classrooms are being bussed to centrally located schools which offer an improved education program; school uniforms, textbooks and other educational materials as well as lunch are provided for these students.
Since 1962, those six to fourteen year olds who live in rural areas, in villages, and sub-village settlements that do not have schools or who are from poor families may attend a Regional Primary Education Boarding School or a Primary School with Pension; all expenses are paid by the State. In 1999, pilot programs were initiated at some of the education boarding and pension schools that target preparing students for vocational training as well as for the secondary school program. In 2000, there were over 280 regional primary boarding schools and over 250 primary schools with pensions. Over 100,000 students were given the option of studying in boarding schools and in pensioned schools.
Several primary school programs are underway in cooperation with the United Nations. These are aimed at improving students' personal hygiene and health and at bringing working children into primary education programs to increase their education achievement levels. Many of these programs take place in remote, poverty stricken areas where as many as 30 percent of the boys and 60 percent of the girls work rather than attend primary school.
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