Turkey entered 2010 amidst disagreements between the Council of State and the Higher Education Board (YÖK) over a system that uses a lower coefficient to calculate the university admission examination scores of graduates of vocational high schools.
In February, the 8th Chamber of the Council of State once again ruled to retain the system that made it more difficult for vocational school graduates to enroll in a program of their choice. The ruling blocked a decision by the YÖK General Council to reduce the coefficient to 0.13 and 0.15 instead of the previous 0.3 and 0.8. In a mass protest against the ruling on Feb. 15, hundreds of vocational high school students chanted slogans, “Our right to education cannot be prevented” and “No to coefficient injustice.”
YÖK took another step on Match 17 and decided that the new coefficients would be 0.12 and 0.15 instead of the previously proposed 0.13 and 0.15. The 8th Chamber of the Council of State, which had rejected YÖK’s previous attempts to put an end to the lower coefficient system, ruled in favor of the latest change proposed by YÖK in April.
Although representatives from civil society organizations and students said YÖK should not have given up on its efforts to put an end to the unjust coefficient system, the latest decision partially abolished this injustice.
YÖK also moved in 2010 to abolish the application of the headscarf ban at universities. Previously people were prohibited from entering university campuses and attending classes while wearing the Muslim headscarf. Thousands of female students were either forced to take off their headscarves in order to attend university or drop out of higher education. YÖK sent a circular to universities in October advising teachers that they could no longer require students to leave class for violating the dress code.
Turkish Education Minister Nimet Çubukçu announced in late June that sixth and seventh graders will no longer have to take the Level Determination Examination (SBS), the standardized test for students looking to enter top high schools, decreeing that the exam will now be given only to eighth graders.
Çubukçu noted that they decided to abolish the SBS for sixth and seventh graders after observing the negative effects the exam had on younger students. The newly revised SBS system was adopted only two years ago during the tenure of Çubukçu’s predecessor, Hüseyin Çelik, as education minister.
The Student Selection and Placement Center (ÖSYM), the sole institution authorized to oversee examinations for state employees, displayed a poor performance in 2010. ÖSYM’s negligence led to much disappointment and frustration for teaching candidates after allegations of cheating emerged.
The allegations emerged in July after more than 3,000 people answered most or all of the questions on June’s State Personnel Examination (KPSS) correctly, a first in Turkey. The unprecedented success led to claims that some of the candidates cheated during the test or obtained the questions ahead of the exam. Some of the most successful candidates were either married to each other or were friends sharing the same house. A detailed investigation has revealed that a copy of the KPSS questions had been obtained before the exam date and had been shared among thousands of candidates.
The Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into the claims and summoned 350 top scorers to testify. The scandal also culminated in the resignation of ÖSYM head Ünal Yarımağan. Most of July’s top scorers received lower points in a rewritten version of the exam that was given in October.