Dear GlobalEd Readers,
It’s a pleasure to introduce you to Dr. Pinar Ayyildiz who is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Management Information Systems and the Director of Center of Research and Learning (CORaL) in Ankara Medipol University, Turkey. In this blog she discusses the challenges faced post pandemic by learners living in Turkey who are from marginalized communities.
Meet Dr. Pinar Ayyıldız: https://globaledleadership.org/7912-2/
The past two years have been difficult for all around the globe. These have been tough times due to the Covid-19 pandemic. To date, not many effective or sustainable solutions have been generated targeting the already existing education problems, which have worsened with the pandemic.
The pandemic emerged as a biological issue and hence often regarded first as a health-related matter. Yet arguably, it has altered how we communicate, see the world, and educate irrevocably. The post-pandemic period, in other words, the ‘post-coRonial’ era, indeed carries salient societal consequences that are worth dwelling upon, particularly in the sphere of education and, more explicitly speaking, as regards the extent and perhaps inherent aspects of it, viz. inequity and injustice. Debatably, the pandemic results are even more apparent for larger territories with highly varied demographics, for example, the US. For developing countries like Turkey, which let in immigrants and, at the same time, deals with a highly heterogeneous society, the situation is a more difficult one. To that end, we are taking a closer look at the effects of the pandemic on teaching and learning processes in Turkey and the situation of students with special needs and socio-economical disadvantages.
Although receiving an education is an ingredient of human rights for any learner, assuring the required conditions and customizing their learning experiences in crowded classrooms is not always possible owing to the lack of resources, i.e., teacher expertise, equipment, and the like. As is the case with other countries, there are a fair number of individuals with special needs in Turkey. It was reported in 2019 that there were nearly 500,000 students with special needs (MoNE, 2019), and the education of whom indeed entails adjustments. With the pandemic, remote online education began, and these students had difficulty adapting to the novel conditions. Nevertheless, for those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the new set of circumstances has been more problematic as they need to sit still in front of a screen for a considerable amount of time.
The high population growth of refugees in Turkey has always been planned. Authorities have been searching for the best ways of initiating projects through which children belonging to the group of almost 4 million refugees (The UN, 2021) can get a better education and where their social integration is warranted. Most of the earlier work is centered on removing language barriers. It is not surprising that Syrian refugee students declared they wished to get more support from their parents, who do not speak Turkish, for online language classes (Celik & Isler, 2020). The pandemic impacted these children extensively since, apart from the other immediate and longer-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on their lives, refugee children have begun to spend more time away from school-some have even been driven to work on the streets. For some refugee children, the pandemic has yielded critical educational and sociological outcomes and emerging ‘specific needs’ pointing to inequities that remind us of what has received considerable media coverage concerning a worldwide increase in domestic violence and child abuse during the pandemic (e.g., Sacco et al., 2020).
Certain disadvantages ‘intersect’ for individuals and groups, turning topics into more significant problems. In Turkey, some students do not have a television or a computer to connect to online learning, and in low-income families, siblings frequently share the devices and stay in one room. Additionally, the children of agricultural workers every Spring leave their homes with their families without waiting for the end of the academic year to work in fields and stay in tents in areas without electricity. Talking about ‘online’ education is rather absurd for such students. Even though it is not that sensible to cast light on the ‘socio-economically disadvantaged groups’ in an isolated manner, it is still meaningful to identify the specific obstacles here.
Nevertheless, there exists a silver lining in every cloud. In Turkey, mainly metropolitan and district municipalities worked hard with governmental and international bodies to establish ‘online education spots’ in different neighborhoods. The government enabled free electricity in the countryside and gave free tablets to those in need. Aside from these, The Ministry of National Education (MoNE) of Turkey helped arrange parent-teacher meetings across the country. They emphasized the role of parents as stakeholders, and potential cases of technology addiction during the pandemic were highlighted. They shared necessary information on any possible scenario about the lockdown processes. They also emphasized the importance of taking part in distance education and preparing for the national high-stakes exams. Counselors working at the Counselling and Research Centre of the Ministry made phone calls to students and their families through an information system they created. Learners were intended to be backed up in particular psycho-socially (Ayyildiz & Baltaci, 2020). These are among other endeavors addressing equity for all; they are a bright light at the end of the former ‘cul-de-sac.’
Ayyildiz, P. & Baltaci, H. S. (2020). Hold on tight, everyone: we’re going down a rabbit hole. Educational Leadership in Turkey During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Int. Stud. Educ. Adm. 48, 80–86.
Celik, S. & Isler, N. K. (2020). Learning experiences of Syrian refugee students during the outburst of the covid-19 pandemic. Milli Egitim, 49(1), 783-800. DOI: 10.37669/milliegitim.783048
Republic of Turkey Ministry of National Education (2019). Retrieved from: http://www.meb.gov.tr/ozel-gereksinimli-cocuklarin-egitiminde-yeni-donem/haber/19311/tr
Sacco, M. A., Caputo, F., Ricci, P., Sicilia, F., Aloe, L. E., Bonetta, C. P., Cordasco, F., Scalise, C., Cacciatore, G., Zibetti, A., Gratteri S., & Aquila, I. (2020). The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on domestic violence: The dark side of home isolation during quarantine. Medico-Legal Journal, 88(2), 71–73. DOI: 10.1177/002581722093055
The United Nations Refugee Agency (2021). Retrieved from: https://www.unhcr.org/tr/en