ANKARA

Turkey has seen good progress over the last decade, not just enrolling more students in education but also raising the learning standards of these students, said Andreas Schleicher, founder of Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

“I am hopeful that Turkey will see further improvements in the years to come,” he added.

Schleicher, who is head of education at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which runs PISA, said, the COVID-19 struck at a point when most education systems were simply not ready for the digital learning.

“If Turkey can address the needs of the lowest-performing students, that is to ensure that every 15-year-old achieves at least the most basic level on the international PISA test, that would add $6.3 trillion to Turkey’s economy over the working life of those students,” he said.

Schleicher, a German-born statistician, and researcher in the field of education said according to the PISA data a little more than two-thirds of 15-year-old students in the OECD countries are in schools where digital devices have sufficient computing capacity.

With its headquarters in Paris, the OECD is an intergovernmental economic organization of 37 countries aimed to stimulate economic progress and world trade.

“And even in a technologically advanced country such as Japan, just 40% of 15-year-old students are in schools with adequate software for learning, “said Schleicher.

On average across OECD countries, just about half of 15-year-olds are in schools with an effective online learning support platform.

“Two-thirds in schools where principals consider that their teachers have the necessary technical and pedagogical skills to integrate digital devices in instruction. And one in 10 students do not even have a place to study at home, not to speak about a computer, “he added.

According to him, in some way, the state of technology in education mirrors the state of mind of the school systems.

School systems invented in the industrial age

“Our school systems were invented in the industrial age when the prevailing norms were standardization and compliance,” he stressed.

He added the current education system, inherited from the industrial model of work, makes a change in a fast-moving world that is vulnerable to disruptions and crises.

“In a way, the changes in our societies have vastly outpaced the structural capacity of our current education systems to respond,” he said.

He also noted even the best education minister can no longer do justice to the needs of millions of students, hundreds of thousands of teachers and tens of thousands of schools.

“At this moment of crisis, the challenge is to build on the expertise of teachers and school leaders and enlist them in the design of superior policies and practices,” he said, adding that this requires innovators who challenge institutional structures that too often are built around the interests and habits of educators and administrators rather than learners.

Pointing out that technology can enhance and extend the reach of great teaching, but not replace poor teaching, he said education is not a transactional experience, but a relational phenomenon.

Build a culture that facilitates learning

The industrial age taught human beings how to educate second-class robots, people who are good at memorizing and repeating what we tell them, he added.

“In this age of accelerations, we need to think much harder about what makes us first-class humans, how we complement, not substitute, the artificial intelligence we have created in our computers, and how we build a culture that facilitates learning, unlearning and re-learning throughout life, “said the leading educationist.

He said that the schools need to help learners to think for themselves and join others, with empathy, work, and citizenship.

“And whatever tasks machines may be taking over from humans at work, the demands on our knowledge and skills to contribute meaningfully to social and civic life will keep rising,” he concluded.

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