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
* Combating Disability Discrimination in Educational Settings
* Human Rights in Textbooks III (together with the History Foundation)
* Teacher’s Workshop: “Discussing Controversial Issues in an Educational Setting” Certificate Program
* Discussing Social Issues in an Educational Setting: Teachers and Academics joint Study and Production Project (together with the Terakki Foundation)
* How to Deal with Discrimination in Education Settings: Lesson Samples and Resources for Educationalists (ASED)
* Textbook Analysis Project
* Prejudice, Stereotypes, and Discrimination: Sociological and Educational Perspectives I (ASEP)
SEÇBİR Talks are designed for broad participation, organised and hosted by the Sociology and Education Studies Division to enable its participants to improve themselves on a wide range of education related issues.
-Seminars and Workshops
* Education and teaching in changing Turkey II – 4 September 2013
* Education and teaching in changing Turkey – 19 June 2013
* Dealing with controversial issues in educational settings – 1 March 2013
* Bilingualism in education: Western Thrace and Diyarbakir experiences – 9 May 2011
* Education and social justice in the context of multilingualism – 24 June 2014
* Confronting the past and education in Turkey: Experiences – 25 May 2013
* Discrimination: Understanding, analyzing, struggling – 29 September 2012