In recent years, Turkey has been experiencing major transformations both in the field of education and in society at large. When it comes to explaining the reason behind these social transformations; it is worth mentioning the external and internal factors that are closely related to each other. While integrating into the global economy, Turkey has also been running negotiations with the EU since 2005. EU-Turkey relations, which get quite tense from time to time, trigger debates regarding identity and lead to new encounters as well as divisive social relations. As social groups -whose religion is not Sunni Islam and native language is not Turkish (Kurds, Armenians, Romans, Alevis etc.)- become visible in the public sphere and begin claiming equal citizenship, the established social structure is being questioned. In addition, the conservative groups have gained political and economic success which enables them to get closer to other groups, and this opens up further potential for new tensions. Questioning the established structure gives way to democratization opportunities but also causes social conflict, violence and discrimination. As a result, Turkey has been suffering from the pain of confronting its past while experiencing the trouble of establishing a socio-political framework that accommodates different groups and their specific demands.
Considering the transformations in the field of education, significant mobility is observed in both the activities and works of the Ministry of National Education. The Ministry declared that the curriculum is far from preparing Turkey for the 21st century. Since 2005 the curriculum and textbooks are being reformulated. The Ministry has been trying to develop a new understanding through emphasizing an activity-based, pupil-centered, constructivist approach to education aiming to construct knowledge under the guidance of the teacher. The new understanding of education aims to raise entrepreneurial individuals who have developed the ability to think critically, who are attached to democratic values, who are open to world, and who “start out with his/her own culture and can contribute to universal values”. Despite some positive steps, the new curriculum and textbooks seem far from satisfying the needs of the current structure of the transformations in Turkey. The social groups mentioned above are either not included in the textbooks or they are referred to through discriminatory expressions. Education, which could be an element enabling social peace, seems to hold the potential to give rise to the existing conflicts. ‘Us’ and ‘them’ perceptions in the textbooks further aggravate the situation. New curriculum and textbooks not only consider global development, the liberal economy and technological advances as constant variables without questioning, but also consider students as dependent variables who need to adapt to those developments.
As a result the gap between social and educational fields in Turkey has expanded. Several NGOs have been performing important studies such as monitoring-assessment, producing materials and organizing teacher-training seminars in order to fill this gap. This means there has been a considerate amount of knowledge and experience on topics like citizenship education, human rights and peace education throughout recent years in Turkey.
However, a close examination reveals that many educational programs in Turkey ignore the most debated issues such as identity, ethnicity, discrimination, and modernization. The most important reason for this is the lack of educational materials and the non-proficiency of educators on the issue.
A dramatic result of the widening of the gap between social and educational fields is the transformation of education into a sterile field detached from social and systematic problems, and/or the practice of a one-dimensional educational system detached from the social change in Turkey and the world. In both cases, education is far from enabling the educators or the pupils to comprehend the transformation in Turkey and the modern world. One of the ways to overcome this consequence is to bring the discipline of sociology closer to the discipline of educational sciences.
Founded in November 2010, İstanbul Bilgi University, Sociology and Education Studies Division aims to deal with sociological and educational studies together and serve as a platform that brings together these two fields.
- Developing materials on how to address the topics of identity, modernization, secularization, democratization, citizenship, poverty and discrimination in education and organizing seminars relevantly
- Organizing teacher training seminars
- Setting common ground for academically produced studies to be shared with educators while materials produced by educators to be shared with academics
- Expanding the studies run by the Department of Sociology in cooperation with high-school teachers and pupils on topics like urbanization, youth, and discrimination
- Studying sociology textbooks specifically and all textbooks in general
- Providing consultancy to governmental and non-governmental organizations on bilingual education, discrimination in education, citizenship, democracy and human rights
Human Rights in Textbooks III (together with the History Foundation)
Between January 2012 and May 2013, the collaborative project between the Historical Foundation and SECBIR with the support of the European union aims to research and report both recorded developments and continuing issues in textbooks. Additionally, the project aims to develop example course materials for Ottoman as well as World History classes and share these materials with teachers in three different provinces in Turkey.
- Project Coordinator: Gülay Kayacan
- Project Assistant: Ozan Torun
- Education Coordinator: Melisa Soran
- Educational Assistants: Melike Ergün, Muhsine Önal
Teacher’s Workshop: “Discussing Controversial Issues in an Educational Setting” Certificate Program
- Turkish society is in undergoing great change; this change brings not only the potential for conflict but also for political and civil democratization. Within this framework, social peace and democratization conditions need to be understood from a new perspective. This new way of thinking is allowing for the strengthening of education. With the aim of sharing with teachers and educators the resources from the program to support and strengthen teachers by SEÇBİR and the Education Reform Initiative (ERG) a certificate program was started under the roof of Istanbul Bilgi University. The aim of this program is to create an education setting oriented towards critical thinking especially in regards to controversial issues. A special focus is given to cross-disciplinary application. The certificate program, to be implemented every academic semester, began with the 2013-2014 Fall semester. The first session will occur over 13 weeks every Saturday between the 21st of September and the 4th of January.
- Democratic Allegiance and Critical Considerations
- Inter-group relations and Discrimination
- Culture, Identity, and Pluralism
- Gender, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation
- Ageism, Childhood, and Child Participation
- Poverty and Social Exclusion
- Struggle against Discrimination: Equality and Justice
Program Director: Kenan Çayır
Program Coordinator: Melisa Soran
Academic Consultant: İpek Gürkaynak
Teacher’s Workshop: “Discussing Controversial Issues in an Educational Setting” Certificate Program is supported by: The Open Society Foundation (Açık Toplum Vakfı), the Swedish Consulate, the Dutch Consulate “Matra” Program, The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Association, and Istanbul Bilgi University.
How to Deal with Discrimination in Education Settings: Lesson Samples and Resources for Educationalists (ASED)
(January 2011-May 2012)
- The outcomes of this project (ASED), which began in November 2011, have been published. This project was completed with the technical support of the Istanbul Bilgi University Television Reporting and Programing Department.
- To reach a wider audience via the SECBIR video recordings put together by the Sociology and Education Studies Unit, educators, and academics.
- To make the ASEP Project’s lessons plans application to different levels and classroom applications.
- To record 4 ninety-minute videos interviewing involved students and teachers.
- To prepare a book with the texts and lessons created by the ASEP Project.
- To prepare an interactive DVD with including all the required materials to apply 4 sample lessons in the classroom.
- To distribute this book and interactive DVD to schools and NGOs within the country.
- Funding Organizations: This project was carried out with the support of Global Dialogue, The Open Society Foundation (Acik Toplum Vakfi), and Istanbul Bilgi University.
Textbook Analysis Project 2011-2012
- Beginning in November 2011, the “Textbook Analysis Project”, begun by a group of sociology students along with SECBIR experts, aimed to analyze “Life Information” and “Social Information” class textbooks from 1st through 8th grade as well as the 8th grade “Citizenship and Democracy Education” textbook using a qualitative measure. The results of this analysis to be shared by means of regular meetings and workshops throughout the 2011-2012 school year. The project did not only analyze MEB (Ministry of National Education) publications but also the publications of private publishing houses in use across Turkey.
Project Outcome Publications:
- SECBIR Textbook Analysis Project (2011 – 2012) “Gender in Textbooks: Progress, Problems, and Suggestions”
- SECBIR Textbook Analysis Project (2011 – 2012) “Militarism in Textbooks”
- To establish the progress and problems regarding the handling of human rights, gender, militarism, and similar topics in textbooks
- To analyze the visual use of textbooks
- To present suggestions on how to improve these textbooks
- The first analysis was completed using the “Qualitative Survey Criteria” as laid out in the Historical Foundation’s “Human Rights in Textbooks Project I and II”.
- “Additional Criteria” were created to do a 2nd survey of the textbooks regarding “visuals”, “role models”, “construction of ‘us’”, and “those [groups] that are not included in the texts”.
- Workshops and meetings took place regarding specific units to analyze the textbook discourse.
Prejudice, Stereotypes, and Discrimination: Sociological and Educational Perspectives I (ASEP)
- The ASEP (Prejudice, Stereotypes, and Discrimination: Sociology and Educational Perspectives) Project that began in January 2011 has been completed. You may find the project texts and materials under the below “Project Texts” heading.
- Project Rationale
- Among the discussions surrounding discrimination in Turkey, social hierarchies between different groups and the visibility of different identities in the public realm are key topics. With regards to these topics, Turkish social science and educational literature are severely lacking as are the related education materials for teachers and students.
- Project Objectives
- Training a specialised group of teachers in issues related to prejudices, stereotypes, and discrimination
- Producing educational materials related to the current situation in Turkey concerning prejudices, stereotypes and discrimination
- Producing examples of teacher training lessons related to prejudices, stereotypes and discrimination
- Project Rationale
- Funding Organizations
- This project was carried out with the support of Global Dialogue, The Open Society Foundation and Istanbul Bilgi University.
- Project Texts:
- Part One: Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination
- Part Two: Modernity, Otherness, and Discrimination
- Part Three: Discrimination and Equality in Legal Terms
- Part Four: Different Dimensions of Discrimination
- Part Five: Combating Discrimination and Reducing Prejudice
Discussing Social Issues in an Educational Setting: Teachers and Academics joint Study and Production Project (together with the Terakki Foundation)
- The project taking place between September 2012 and May 2013 with the support of the Terakki Foundation aimed to bring together different the teachers of differing branches and levels during the course of the academic year to discuss and create example activities relating to discrimination.
- Funding Organizations:
- This project was carried out with the support of the Terrakki Foundation and the Terakki Foundation Schools (TERAKKI VAKFI and the TERAKKI VAKFI OKULLARI)
- To discuss and debate social issues at seminars with teachers and academics from different disciplines.
- For said teachers to develop lesson modules relevant to these issues that could affect educational methods.
- To prepare a pamphlet including these modules.
- To share these modules on different platforms with the educators of Turkey.
- To report the qualitative results of this project’s research.
- 24 June 2014, Education and social justice in the context of multilinugalism
- 25 May 2013, Confronting the past and education in Turkey: Experiences
- 29 September 2012, Discrimination: Understanding, analyzing, struggling