Turkey steps up digital skills training for teachers
The country launches nationwide online learning portals during the pandemic crisis
On April 28, the ETF talked to three Turkish educators at the heart of the country's major new online teaching initiative. Turkey is among the few countries worldwide that did not drag its feet over responding the coronavirus pandemic. Learning from the experience of other countries in its neighbourhood - including Iran, Italy and Spain - it closed schools and vocational training institutes on March 13, just two days after its first declared case of COVID-19, the acute respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
For Professor Adnan Boyaci, Director General of the Teacher Education and Training Department at Turkey's Ministry of National Education, a focus on Continuous Professional Development for the country's million teachers in recent years was a solid foundation for the urgent educational response demanded by the pandemic. Under Turkey's 2023 education vision statement teachers and principals were already identified as "core agents of change" within the system. Many had already benefited from digital and cyber security training provided with the support of stakeholders that included UNESCO and top international IT companies. This helped ensure there as already a pool of teachers able to work with the ministry to swiftly set up new online learning platforms.
Anıl Yilmaz, Director General of the department for Innovation and Educational Technologies at the Ministry of National Education, emphasises that prior experience in launching such online platforms also helped drive the rapid development and design of courses that within six weeks numbered 50,000 simultaneous lessons that were being accessed by one million students. There was an early appreciation of the need to balance platforms and make wide use of television, particularly important in a country where not all families can afford computers and broadband access. Teachers and technical specialists expanded an existing TV platform, EBA, and cell phone companies pitched in by providing free Wi-Fi access for students accessing new online learning platforms via laptops, pads and smartphones. Soon the EBA online service was the sixth most popular online learning platform on the planet.
For English teacher Aslinur Okay Çeylik using online learning platforms has now become almost second nature. Working mostly via EBA, she assigns students daily or weekly tasks. Whattsapp is better for engaging with parents, who are taking an encouraging interest in how their children are doing. Her own daughter is also an enthusiast: repeating lessons when she needs to, and enjoying the fact that she has an instant source of revision material.