23 SES 16 D, Issues in Education
In capitalist societies the mass, public system of education was seen as the way of achieving two targets. First, to aid nation-building process through the inculcation of a common ideology and secondly, to educate new generations for the administrative bureaucratic systems of nation states. These aims provided were intended to provide loyal citizens who were able to learn and reproduce Gellner’s (1983) notion of high culture. Green (1990) argues that the main factors which affect the formation of the national education systems can be explained in relation to the ‘state formation’ and/or ‘nation-building’. There have been several conditions that have influenced state formation and hence the creation of educational systems:
…to establish a new social order which will reflect the principles for which the struggle was originally undertaken…. there have been the situations where nations have been prompted into state-led programmes of reform to escape from relative economic underdevelopment. (p. 310)
These conditions can be applied to the formation of state building processes in the Turkish Republic.
The history of the emergence of the Turkish Republic, a new Turkish state, goes back to the last days of the Ottoman Empire. The transition from an Empire to a Republic is called the Turkish Revolution. The Turkish Revolution aimed to create a modern secular nation state from a Muslim and multi-ethnic empire.
The state that Ataturk tried to promote was aimed to adopt a new structural frame for the state based on the principles, secularism, republicanism and nationalism which played an important role in themodernization process.
The development of a Turkish national education system played an important role in the state formation of Turkey. There was a close relationship between the establishment of mass education and “the nature of the state and the process of state formation” (Green 1990, p. 309). The establishment of a modern mass education system in Turkey started in the early 1920s after the foundation of the Turkish Republic.
The significance of this study rise from the need to explore the issues with respect to how education plays a role in the construction of citizenship and identity through the process of formal education in Turkey. From an historical analysis of education and state formation in Turkey it can be seen that one of major principles of the Turkish nation state lies in the westernization of the country as part of secularism (Gumus F. (2007) Unpublished Doctoral Thesis) . European values and lifestyles have been transplanted, to some extent, into daily life through different mechanisms, education played an important role in in this process since the early years of the Republic was founded. Yet, the key point of conflict with the key issues confronting Turkish education for the foreseeable future are related to these issues. The focal point for them has been that of secularism.
Here it is important to recall that there are several undercurrents that have informed the history of the Turkish republic: there has always been a strain, since the inception of the Republic, which has seen ‘Europe’ as central to Turkey’s ‘modernising’ ambitions. In this respect modernising has also been seen as a form of ‘civilising’, especially in relation to the perceived influence of Islam. Hence the importance of secularism in Turkish politics was represented most powerfully by the constitution. In order to sustain the Republic many in the Turkish elite have thought that the culture of secularism is important.
Therefore, understanding the influence of the historical legacy of state formation processes new generation’s thinking is crucial to seeing how they might address the issue of secularism which there have been degree of influence with respect to education. Data obtained through the interviews aimed illuminating the following questions that generated the argument for this study. 1. In what ways does the historical development of Turkey as a republic inform the views of new starters of university students with respect to understanding of secularism? 2. Are there other factors (for example the media, social media) which have informed the understandings of new starters of university students in Turkey with respect to secularism? Responding to these questions, the major consideration emerged as one of choosing the right methodology in the context of the importance of gaining the appropriate body of knowledge concerning the world views of people who have been influenced by the formal education before the new curriculum was introduced. Therefore, a qualitative methodology was chosen because it would be more appropriate to use for this study as it could help explain students’ views of the world and the meanings by which they construct it. Carrying out research to test the pre-established hypotheses would not be appropriate for the nature of this research. Because I was interested in their world views I needed to start with minimal assumptions in order to gain maximum learning from the participants. In order to do this I needed to obtain rich, detailed data from interviewers. By world view I mean how students connect key elements of their thinking into a more or less coherent whole. Therefore, a qualitative methodology and its related methods were used in this study as they allowed me to concentrate on the richness and complexities of the participants’ world views through interviews and documentary analyses. Forty university (40) students are the target group and are chosen among the ones that started to the university recently to avoid the influence of university social environment on their perception of the related issues the research targeted. Data collected through applying focus groups for the 40 students, who were chosen on randomly basis. Groups were made up 3 to six interviewers. Semi structured interviews were applied to understand the interviewers’ world view.
This study is at the analysis stage, therefore I do not mention about the final conclusion but the initial findings may generate the early discussion below. The majority of participants believe in the necessity of maintaining secularism in the country. But their definition of secularism have slightly different meanings. Some of the participants have been very keen on secularism as defining it ‘freedom, and civilization’ and they make a strong connection with women rights and secularism, whereas some others define it ‘freedom of religious belief and practice’ for all citizens. The majority of the latter is graduated from religious high schools called as İmam Hatip Lisesi. Note for evaluators; This submission is the initial research findings, but by the time the full paper asked I will be able to submit the full paper.
Gellner, E: (1983) Nations and Nationalism. Ithaca. Cornell University Press. Green, A. (1990) Education and State Formation, The Rise of Education Systems in England, France and the USA. New York, St Martin's Press.
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