Turkey, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus: Turkey to ensure education continues

Millions of students will be taught online or through TV so that quarantine does not damage their future

Ali Murat Alhas   | 22.03.2020
Coronavirus: Turkey to ensure education continues

ANKARA

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to dominate headlines, education is another field feeling the impact of social isolation. But this Monday, Turkey is set to launch digital education for millions of students so their learning will not be interrupted. 

It announced on March 13 that all education facilities from primary schools to universities would be shut so the virus, also known as COVID-19, could be contained in Turkey, where there are nearly 950 cases and 21 deaths.

The virus, which emerged in Wuhan, China last December, has spread to at least 171 countries and regions around the globe, while the tally of confirmed cases has topped 307,000, according to data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

The global death toll has exceeded 13,000, causing a chain reaction as governments place countries on lockdown to stem the spread.

Education Minister Ziya Selcuk said there would be remote education to ensure students do not suffer, and lessons would be available online or on television.

Students will be able to benefit from the Education Information Network (EBA), where lessons can be monitored online with the participation of teachers and students, according to Selcuk, and six TV channels specially designated for educational use will operate until the end of the pandemic.

Many lessons

Depending on the grade and student, a variety of lessons such as Turkish, math, social and physical sciences, English, biology, and geography will be aired for 20 minutes, one after the other.

Lessons are set to start at 9 a.m. (0600GMT), and students will also have the opportunity to watch lessons later in the evening. Lessons will also be available on the EBA website.

Yusuf Kirac, deputy director-general of Turk Telekom Technology, said the company would help facilitate distance education in line with an agreement reached with the Education Ministry.

“There are 18 million students who will use this system, and the infrastructure of over 40,000 schools accessing the infrastructure is ensured by Turk Telekom,” he said, while adding that five gigabytes of extra internet service would be provided to EBA users.

He noted that web traffic in Turkey would rise with the introduction of the online system Monday and Turk Telekom is fully prepared to meet the demand.

“As a national institution, it is part of our community responsibility to come up with solutions,” he said.

Making the most of new system

Although officials do not expect infrastructure problems providing service to millions of students simultaneously, teachers and trainers warn the change of educational environment might harm motivation.

“Many of the students will be taught online for the first time and it might become a bit challenging for us to motivate them,” said Mert Yilmaz, who has been teaching five years. “We cannot expect online or TV lessons to be as effective as our regular classes in the early days, but given the grave realities of coronavirus, it was a necessity. We will try to make the most out of them.”

Yilmaz said parents’ attitudes carry great importance for distance education, and they should not interrupt during lessons as this could harm the education environment and the learning process.

“I have called some parents already and told them not to serve food or anything during lessons. Just respect the lesson and prepare a convenient education atmosphere in a room,” he said.

The English teacher also said he would be in close contact with his students and monitor their development, arguing that teacher monitoring would help motivate students, some of whom might slack.

High schooler Zeynep Kiran, 17, said she fears the lack of an authority checking behavior during lessons, but added: “I think it’s our responsibility to be all ears while watching online or TV lessons. After all, every new piece of information we learn prepares us for university exams and contributes to our knowledge.”

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