Turkish parents worried about gov’t plan to shut down study centers

Students receive free education at an education center in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, which is set to be closed by the government despite opposition to the plan from both students and parents. (Photo: Cihan, Sinan Yılmaz)
Students receive free education at an education center in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, which is set to be closed by the government despite opposition to the plan from both students and parents. (Photo: Cihan, Sinan Yılmaz)


Date posted: November 21, 2013

CİHAN ACAR, İSTANBUL

Working parents are extremely concerned with a planned move from the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government to shut down study centers, where children can spend time after school doing their homework with the assistance of educational professionals, as part of a law that will see private prep schools that help students in preparing for high-school and university tests close.

Study centers and reading rooms, which provide tutoring and counseling to students, will also be closed as part of the government plan to abolish prep schools, although the government maintains that study centers will continue to operate. There are 749 study centers in Turkey. Parents usually send their children to these centers if they come home late from work to ensure that children finish school work under the supervision of adults, who are also education professionals. They serve an important purpose for children who would normally be “turn-key children,” who return from school to empty houses while their parents are at work.

Şeref Erol, a concerned father, told Today’s Zaman: “It is truly impossible to understand why they are doing this when you have this sort of supply and demand balance. Education is the most important investment for our children. If there are no prep schools or study centers in Europe, that’s because the quality of education there is high. Study centers have proven extremely beneficial for us. It is important for working families. As a father, I really can’t afford to send my child to a private school.”

Nurcan Akcan, another parent, says she works long hours and does not always have the time to spend helping her daughter with her homework. “I don’t know what to do if study centers and prep schools are closed.”

Gülay Avcı, who owns a study center and has been a professional educator for 40 years, says: “It is really not the right time to be shutting down prep schools or study centers. There is a balance of supply and demand. I would have never imagined that study centers would be closed. We take care of children, and we also have social activities and make sure they eat properly. We are not only about schoolwork.” She said before anything else, her job is extremely fulfilling spiritually.

Yusuf Kara, an official from the Zirve Magazine Prep Schools Study Center, said parents have been asking him whether the center will really be shut down. “The major problem is that currently there is no infrastructure. When these houses of learning are shut down, it is not clear where our instructors will be employed. This is a risk for our employees. For our parents, there are other concerns. They think state schools are inadequate. What will they do without prep schools or study centers? Perhaps families who are well-off can go for private tutoring, but those who don’t have the means will not have that opportunity. Our parents are really uneasy about this. They don’t know what to do. We try to give them optimistic answers, but there is certainly a great deal of unease.”

No logic in closing prep schools

The owner of another study center, Murat Coşkun, said: “Not a single reason can be found for shutting down study centers. There is no logic behind this, no matter how you look at it.” He further added: “If you have an industry, you can’t just end it. I find such practices absurd in a democratic country.”

‘Only hurts children’

Management science expert Doğan Ceylan said: “I had said before that prep schools shouldn’t be closed in an instant. For example, giving them three years could give them some breathing space. But it is wrong to shut down study centers. Because in addition to helping children with classes, they actually do the work of day-care centers. This is why they are popular. They are very important institutions for working parents. Now they are saying they will have study hours at schools, but this is unlikely, because more than half of schools work in dual shifts. You can’t have study hours in a school which continues teaching in the afternoon. This is why these centers were safe places for children with working parents. I don’t think it is right to shut down the study centers.”

There are 749 private study centers registered with the Private Educational Institutions General Directorate. However, this figure excludes study centers opened by municipalities. A total of 226 of these centers are in İstanbul and 82 are in the capital. These centers help children with schoolwork and also offer social activities. They are open to children aged 7 to 14. In addition to help with schoolwork, these centers teach skills and techniques to increase student motivation and development.

Source: Today's Zaman , November 21, 2013


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