HÜSEYİN GÜLERCE

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HÜSEYİN GÜLERCE
November 15, 2012, Thursday

Private university prep courses, opposition and TOBB

Dear prime minister, I cannot understand your insistence on ending private university preparation courses.

I worked as a teacher of physics for six years and as a director of a high school in Yalova. I worked as the vice director of education in Bursa. I also worked at various private university prep courses for 10 years. In other words, I am in a position to look at this matter from all sides.

I suppose some directors who don’t have a background in this matter are parroting frequently voiced arguments to create confusion. As a person who has been in this sector for many years, I say the following:

Private university prep courses create a true equality of opportunities for education, not lack thereof. In particular, if smart, hard-working students of vocational high schools, imam hatip schools and other high schools with insufficient teaching staff do not attend these courses, they cannot score sufficiently high grades to study at the departments they deserve at universities. These courses exist even in the districts or towns that do not have a single private high school, and thanks to them, students in these areas can attend university.

The prime minister is a fair person. As a friend, I tell him, “Listen, before you give the nod to the move that will affect these courses.” If these courses are shut down, the graduates of imam hatip and vocational schools will face a much graver victimization than the injustice they are currently suffering from. It would be extremely exceptional for these students to pass the university entrance exams in areas other than those related to their branches. The knowledge they gain at their current schools is not sufficient for them to solve the physics, chemistry, biology and math questions.

If these courses are closed down, everyone sees and acknowledges that only rich families will be able to pay for private lessons for their children. Only those who are wealthy will not be victimized.

Private university prep courses are billing families with undeservedly high sums. However, about 80 percent of the students who attend these courses are those whose families cannot pay for private lessons. Why would hundreds of thousands of families send their children to these courses if they didn’t believe there was a benefit? Let the prime minister sponsor a survey. This way, he can get a true picture of who is not happy with these courses. No reasonable person will claim that there is no benefit from attending these courses. Why is there this antagonism against these courses, given that the students who have attended universities thanks to them and their families are happy with them?

Another defamation campaign is being conducted with the suggestion that these courses are alternatives to schools. On the contrary, these courses merely complement schools. The basic fault is systemic. Schools are unable to provide their students with questions that are similar to those given in the university entrance exams. The quality of the teaching staff is not uniform across all schools. There is great diversity between schools, provinces and districts. If you opt to overhaul the entire system by training quality teachers and developing curricula suitable for future education, that is, in a way to eliminate the need for private university prep courses, then there is no problem. But if you close down these courses without introducing these systemic changes, then you will do the greatest injustice to the Turkish youth.

There is another important point. If the “Reading Rooms” which provide free courses to the children of Kurdish citizens in eastern and southeastern Anatolia are closed down, this will be the icing on the cake for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Last year, more than 100,000 students attended these courses.

To shut down private university prep courses is a breach of market economy principles, equality of opportunity, freedoms and democracy. Why are the opposition parties silent about this? The owners of private university prep courses are represented at the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB). Why doesn’t TOBB deliver a statement about this unfair move targeting its members?

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