Turkey, online classes due to coronavirus

New course begins in Turkey with online classes

Return to classes is scheduled for September 21, but government will take into account parents who do not want to send children to school.

Millions of students began the school year in Turkey on August 31 after the summer holidays with online classes: it will not be until September 21 when they gradually begin to return to classroom physically, although the government is still considering several possibilities depending on the evolution of the coronavirus pandemic.

Education Minister Ziya Selçuk participated in a symbolic ceremony by ringing the bell at an Ankara primary school to inaugurate the new school year. “We are going to guarantee distance education until September 18. Work continues so that the process (back to the classrooms) begins on September 21,” the minister said.

Instead of being seated down in desks of schools and high schools, millions of students began classes this Monday sitting down on chairs at home in front of computers and televisions to receive classes from a distance. This system, which was already in place during the confinement of the first quarter, will initially continue until September 18 through the Educational Information Network (EBA) of the public channel TRT, besides online courses.

However, it is not yet clear what will happen as of September 18; the government has not yet made a final decision on the physical return to the classrooms due to the evolution of the pandemic, especially because of the increase in daily positive cases in recent weeks, and the Ministry of Education is working on several possible scenarios. Minister Selçuk himself pointed days ago to a gradual return to schools.

“There is a consensus that not opening schools now is appropriate”

One of the most common scenarios now is a partial return to face-to-face classes, in which timetables would be changed to reduce the ratio of students per classroom. A mixed model is also proposed in which physical classes are combined with online classes; in this sense, the minister assured that great efforts are being devoted to improve the distance education system through EBA.

Originally conceived as a system to provide additional educational materials to students through the Internet and Turkish Public Radio Television (TRT), EBA ended up becoming an essential element to continue with the course this year once the pandemic broke out in March and all educational centres closed their classrooms. Through this system, combined with videoconferencing apps, teachers were able to maintain contact with their students and conclude the course.

Selçuk assured that actions are being carried out to help those children who have difficulties in accessing EBA’s TV or online broadcasts, especially in the most isolated rural areas, adding about the reopening of schools that “we are not going to take risks”. “As of today, there is a consensus that not opening schools is appropriate. That is why we have started (the course) with distance education,” he said.

“We cannot force parents to take their children to school”

In an interview with the daily Hürriyet last week, the minister said that the government is also taking into account the opinion of parents about the physical return to classrooms, as many are reluctant to send their children to school.

“Compulsory schooling is not only an educational problem, but also a sociological one. We cannot force parents by insisting that schooling is compulsory. This pandemic is an extraordinary situation. It is a disaster. We have to take into account families with sick people, with chronic diseases or suffering from any other problem. Children who do not go to school will receive online classes,” said the minister.