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6.3 Financial, physical and human resources

Financial resources: Public sector education expenditures have increased in real terms in recent years but have remained modest as a proportion of GDP, at 3-4%. In 2011, central government budget spending on education amounted to TL48.5 billion or about 3.75% of GDP. About 1.52% of GDP went on pre-primary and primary education, 0.81% on secondary education, 0.85% on tertiary education and the remainder on subsidiary services, education not definable by level, research and other miscellaneous items. The State Planning Organisation estimates in its Annual Programme for 2012 that total public education expenditures were 4.0% in 2011 and will remain at this level in 2012. Nevertheless, compared to the OECD average (around 5.8%) and the ratio which is recommended by UNESCO to developing countries (6%), Turkey’s current level of public education spending is quite low. Moreover, compared to most OECD countries, a larger proportion of the population in Turkey is of an age at which it is normal to be in formal education. In its 2010 Education Monitoring Report, the Education Reform Initiative (ERG) based at Sabancı University estimated average annual public expenditure (central + local government) per pupil in 2010 at TL1,583 for pre-primary and primary education, TL2,406 for general high schools and TL2,723 for vocational and professional high schools.

According to the World Bank policy note “Improving the Quality and Equity of Basic Education in Turkey: Challenges and Options” (http://go.worldbank.org/MM9KG62GG0) (2011), the shortfall in public sector education expenditure (compared to the OECD average) is made up for by private, out-of-pocket spending by households. Most of the private spending goes on the cramming schools mentioned above and private school fees for about 3% of children. In addition, low government allocations for non-personnel spending in schools and their ineffective distribution via provincial special administrations makes schools reliant on contributions from parents, incidentally obstructing attempts to end what are commonly known as “compulsory donations” and make school-parent relations more democratic and constructive. The drawback is that all this private expenditure is naturally made mainly by parents from higher income groups and benefits their own children, thus strengthening the strong correlation between the socioeconomic status of parents/school catchment areas and the educational attainment of the child.

The distribution of central government education finance resources is inequitable too. Citing various research, the World Bank note points out that public financial resources for education have mainly been allocated to provinces according to an input-driven system under which financial resources have not been adequately adjusted for demographic movements or for the cost of educating more disadvantaged populations. The Bank’s note recommends per capita funding, with added priority for preschool and primary education, where returns on investment are highest, and to districts where socioeconomically disadvantaged groups or girls form a high proportion of the population, as well as a review of the examination system which feeds the cramming school system.

The increase in the numbers of schoolchildren resulting from the goal of 100% participation in preschool education, the lowering of the primary education starting age and the extension of compulsory schooling to twelve years will put additional pressure on the financial resources of the education system. The government has not made any commitment to increasing financial resources for education. Instead, the Government Annual Programme for 2012 envisages reducing differences between schools by taking into account student numbers and access to non-budgetary financing, and making use of the new Financing of Education and Education Spending in Turkey Data Management System (TEFBIS) to monitor all educational spending. Encouraging private schooling, buying in services from the private sector, and using public-private partnership arrangements for school buildings are also on the agenda.

Buildings and equipment: Important efforts have been made in the past decade to improve school buildings and equipment, including making computers and the internet available in all schools. Following the extension of primary education from five years to eight, important progress was made with respect to the provision of classrooms using World Bank lending and contributions from the EU, local administrations and not least the private sector, which has benefited from 100 percent tax relief for its support to education. Similarly, efforts are being made to reinforce schools against earthquakes. Even so, millions of children have to study in crowded classrooms, on a two-shift system (whereby they attend school either in the morning or in the afternoon), and/or in poor quality school buildings with limited facilities. Deficiencies such as these are not surprising in view of the increase in years of schooling, the growing and migrating population of children and the relatively modest budget for public education. It is particularly challenging to provide the necessary resources for quality education quickly enough in neighbourhoods with fast-growing child populations. According to the Government Annual Programme for 2012, 51% of primary school children are being educated on a shift system – a figure which rises to 89% in the province of Şanlıurfa, whıch has 53 prımary school chıldren per classroom compared to a natıonal average of 31. The Programme promises that investment plans will be made accordingly. In rural areas in less-developed regions, on the other hand, a significant proportion of children are receiving receiving multi grade teaching education in classes where age groups are mixed, due to the low numbers of children in the villages. However, the teachers are not well equipped for dealing with these kind of classes.. The Annual Programme also notes wide disparities from province to province in the numbers of computers per primary school student, with a national average of 21 in primary education and 39 in secondary education.  The Ministry of National Education is aiming to increase the use of technology in education dramatically, especially through the provision of smart boards,  computers for teachers, printers, scanners, Internet access and individual hand-held devices for children along with related software, documents, training services and management systems under the FATİH project (http://fatihprojesi.meb.gov.tr). 

Teachers:  The adequacy of teacher numbers is a topic of debate. In primary education, the student-teacher ratio is about 21 as opposed to about 16 in OECD countries. Overall, the student-teacher ratio has been decreasing, but regional disparities remain. In parts of Southeast Anatolia, Istanbul and other fast-growing cities, the student-teacher ratio is well above the national average (In Şanlıurfa, for example, the Government’s 2012 Annual Programme acknowledges that it is 34). In secondary education, student-teacher ratios are lower, but remain above the OECD average, and they have been rising with increased demand for this level of education. There is a risk that teacher-student ratios will deteriorate further in the short term now that compulsory education has been extended to twelve years.

Numbers of students per classroom and per teacher at different levels of formal education

 

 

2008-9

2009-10

2010-11

Primary education

students/classroom

32

32

31

 

--urban areas

38

37

36

 

--villages

22

21

21

 

students/teacher

23

22

21

Secondary education

students/classroom

31

33

34

 

students/teacher

17

18

18

--general

students/classroom

29

31

31

 

students/teacher

18

18

18

--technical and vocational

students/classroom

33

36

38

 

students/teacher

16

17

18

Source: Annual programme 2012/Ministry of National Education

 

Teacher quality may be the most important school variable influencing student achievement, especially for disadvantaged girls and boys. Arguably, however, Turkey’s efforts to provide sufficient teachers for rising numbers of schoolchildren have come at the expense of teacher quality, which is perceived to be low by OECD standards (World Bank: Improving the Quality and Equity of Basic Education in Turkey: Challenges and Options, 2011 - http://go.worldbank.org/MM9KG62GG0). A relatively high incidence of incompetence among teachers and a relatively low level of motivation and professionalism may be related to the social backgrounds of teachers, the impersonal way in which candidates for teacher training are selected, the status of teachers in society, the structure of the profession/careers, cultural perceptions and low rewards. At the same time, teacher training is often inadequate, notwithstanding repeated reforms. Many teachers may not be sufficiently knowledgeable about child rights, and may lack the knowledge and abilities to teach in a child-centred way. Teachers’ training does not equip them to work in difficult environments. Schools in Eastern parts of the country, in  particular, may be staffed by inexperienced teachers who lack guidance or mentoring from more experienced colleagues, and teacher absenteeism and staff turnover ratios may be high. Teacher appointments are made through a centralised system which does not match their individual capacities to individual jobs and denies any role to officials or school principals “on the ground”. In-service training or guidance is very limited, and can do little to change attitudes and support innovation. It may also be of low quality and therefore unwelcome to teachers.

The Ministry of National Education launched a renewed effort to improve teacher quality at a participatory National Teacher Strategy Workshop in November 2011. A National Teacher Strategy Document was subsequently drafted, and a projection is being developed for teacher requirements. Among other initiatives, the Ministry has also been engaged in a process of determining teacher competencies.  It is important that all these efforts should be implemented in a sustainable manner with adequate resources and in full coordination both within the Ministry and with the Higher Education Council, teachers’ organisations and other relevant actors. The implementation of the national teacher strategy should be adequately monitored so that it can be revised as necessary, and accompanied by more concrete research on factors affecting the quality of teaching. Increased performance monitoring and accountability for teachers should not run ahead of better training and support, enhanced job security and career prospects, and satisfactory incentives, especially for those working in remote areas, crowded classrooms, inclusive education, boarding schools, places where children’s first language may not be Turkish and similar difficult conditions.

UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarı Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org