Turkey's Curricula From 2005 to 2020: Gender Equality and Secularism Research Report

Education Report

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Dr. Sezen Bayhan

Various changes have taken place over the past fifteen years in the Turkish education system. Among them, the changes in the school curricular programs in 2017 and 2018 have been one of the most important. Most changes in the education system become effective when they are incorporated into the curricular programs, which include objectives, principles developed to attain these objectives and methods to be utilised (Gözütok, 2003). Hence, changes in the curricular programs bear the potential to provide deep insights into the transformation occurring in the education system.

Turkey’s Ministry of National Education (MoNE) introduced a set of new curricular programs in 2017, stating that the distinctive character of the new curriculum was its focus on values, and made amendments to come of the programs in 2018. Unlike what happened during the previous curricular reform process resulting in the introduction of what was called the constructivist curriculum in 2005, the 2017 curricula were introduced without discrediting or discarding the previous approaches that were in effect.

Before the 2005 curriculum reform was introduced, official authorities had criticised the curricula of the time for being mechanical, fostering rote-learning, and failing to adequately take into account student perspectives and individual differences (MoNE Life Knowledge Curricular Program, 2005). It was promised by the then Minister of Education, who also stated that the curricula had to be aligned with the European Union standards, that the new curriculum would be student-centred and emancipate students from rote-learning (see Çelik, 2004).

The introduction of 2017 Curriculum, on the other hand, did not involve discrediting or scandalising the previous approaches. However, the guiding principles and pedagogical approaches governing the new curriculum have not been made explicit (Diker Coşkun, 2017, s.7). The most explicit information provided by the official authorities regarding the distinctive characteristics and novelty of the new curriculum is that the curriculum is centred on the notion of values. The Board of Training and Education expressed this as follows: “Different from the previous curricula, values and value education constitute the locus of the new curriculum” (Talim ve Terbiye Kurulu Başlanlığı, 2017, p.7). The particular approach adopted by curriculum developers is in part rooted in how they define the  problem to which they are addressing; hence the curricular emphasis placed on values emerges as a significant topic deserving research scrutiny. (Posner, 2004).

[...] the new curricular programs fail to include a vision that is intended to promote gender equality and to create a culture of peaceful co-existence.

Diker Coşkun

Despite the stated emphasis of the 2017 curriculum on values, Diker Coşkun (2017) states that the new curricular programs fail to include a vision that is intended to promote gender equality and to create a culture of peaceful co-existence (p. 3). In addition, an increasingly voiced concern in relation to the education system in Turkey has been the violation of basic human rights such as freedom of belief (Norwegian Helsinki Committee, 2015, 2019). In the face of escalating concerns over freedom of belief as a human right and the perpetuation of problems  rooted in gender inequalities, this research project aimed to address the lack of comparative studies focusing on the way issues related to gender equality and freedom of belief are dealt with by the curricular programs.