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Reformed approach key to Turkish students’ rising success in math, science

April 14, 2021

Original Article:

For the first time ever, Turkey significantly climbed in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) unveiled Tuesday, rising above a midpoint of 500 points or above average.

Officials say this improvement is the result of a series of changing strategies of education in Turkey, from the promotion of critical thinking and innovation to changes in the approaches based on mathematics and digital efficiencies.

TIMSS is an assessment conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), an independent international body, that sheds light on student achievement in mathematics, science and reading around the world every four years. At least 5,000 students from fourth and eighth grades are assessed from each country via questionnaires. The 2019 study found fourth-graders’ success in mathematics rose to 523 points, a 40-point rise compared to 483 in 2015, propelling Turkey to the 23rd spot among 58 countries. In the sciences, the country’s points rose to 526, placing it in the 19th spot. The improved performance was registered all across the country.

Cem Gençoğlu, head of the Directorate of Basic Education at the Ministry of National Education, listed several factors behind the improvement and highlighted a changing culture of learning. “Approaches following recent education trends like critical thinking, innovation, support of the Education Information Network (EBA) and an overhaul of tests to bring new aspects to boost knowledge in mathematics and sciences secured this result for us,” he told Anadolu Agency (AA) Thursday.

EBA, dubbed the world’s largest online education platform by the ministry, started out as a simple portal for providing access to digital teaching materials for teachers a few years ago. With the coronavirus pandemic forcing Turkey to shut down schools, the platform turned into an online learning juggernaut. The ministry added a plethora of new content for students and teachers and introduced online, live classes for millions of students confined to their homes amid the outbreak.

Turkey has been participating in TIMSS since 1999, but Gençoğlu notes that this is the first time that the country exhibited such a high level of achievement. “We actively worked to support schools during the period where the success of students was measured. The needs of schools all across the country, even in the remotest areas, were monitored and were immediately addressed. We are proud of achieving these results in the end,” he said.

The country also turned to digital resources and, with the e-TIMSS application, it included more students in the exams used to measure the country's educational success.

The educational system has undergone countless changes in the brief history of modern Turkey, and every new step has brought new challenges. In the past decade, the government managed to implement an overhaul of the system with relative success, especially in terms of university admission exams, better schools with more classrooms and the use of technology in education.


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