Over the years, the Turkish education system has been moulded by political, economical, and social changes in a growing population of over 60 million. First steps towards the inclusion of the excluded citizens with special educational needs were taken in the late 1800. Since then, various developments have occurred in the fields of policy and practice.
The Turkish Constitution covers the educational, social security, labour and health rights of citizens with a disability. Although legal arrangements for the disabled exist, policies and regulations need to be improved and reflect upon real life for immediate solutions to the daily problems of disabled citizens. Regarding the 1997 census the estimated number of citizens with a disability is 8.1 million and 3.96 million is between the ages of 0 to 18. To date, educational services have been offered only to children with visual, auditory, physical and cognitive disabilities. Less than 10% of the existing children with special needs (3.96 million) are able to benefit from educational services. Since 1993 services have been initiated for chronically ill children, preschool children with special needs and the gifted.
Currently, children with severe, profound and multiple learning disabilities are excluded from the existing education system. Thus, the educational opportunities provided for children with special needs requires rapid improvements for mainly two reasons. Firstly, the quantity of special services has to be increased to meet the needs of over 90 % of the children unable to receive educational input. Secondly, the quality of services in terms of physical setting, educational materials, evaluation tools, teach staff, support services, specialists, and family involvement is destined to renovations and expansions.
THE TURKISH EDUCATION SYSTEM
Over the years, the Turkish education system has been moulded by political, economical and social changes in a growing population of over 60 million. Historical and contemporary information about the national education system of Turkey will be presented in this section.
The first Law of Education and Curriculum (Tevhid-i Tedrisat Kanunu) was passed in 1924, soon after the establishment of the Republic. This law formed the core of the National Education System with minor changes and additions being made in the following years. Five years of compulsory schooling implemented with the 1924 Law was extended to include the secondary school education (totalling 8 years from the age of 6 to 14) after The Basic Law of National Education passed in 1973.
The National Education system has two main components; formal and non-formal education. Formal education covers institutions of pre-school, primary, secondary, high-school and higher education. Non-formal education covers any educational programmes offered outside schools to adults for teaching literacy and other skills for living.
At present, education of children between the ages of 0 to 3 is provided in day care centres; and in nurseries serving children from 3 to 6 years of age. These establishments apply educational programmes under the supervision of the Ministry of National Education. The Bureau of Social Services and Child Protection is responsible for pre-school programmes such as: pre-school care centres and nursing centres for working mothers of young children (Milli Egitim Bakanligi, Talim ve Terbiye Kurulu Baskanligi, 1993).
Primary education is compulsory and starts at the age of six. However, many children in rural regions of Turkey are enrolled at seven and some children in urban areas attend preparatory classes between six and seven. The present percentage of schooling among primary school children is 96 %. Yet, this ratio varies between rural and urban areas and in terms of sex. Although secondary school education is a requirement for all children according to the 1973 Law the ratio for enrolment drops to 62 % (Yedinci Bes Yillik Kalkinma Plani, 1994, p. 30) The eight-year compulsory education has been put into practice recently in 1998, but only the elementary school (ageing 6-11) continues to be compulsory throughout Turkey until sufficient number of secondary schools are built across the country. Thus, the law and practice do not always coincide in the national education system. Recent figures 1998-1999 for types of schools, students and teachers are summarised in Table 1.
Table 1. Number of Schools, Pupils and Teachers At All Levels of the National Education
|Level of education||Number of Schools||Number of students||Number of teachers|
|Non- formal education||6,280||2,935,929||1,679,418||1,256,511||44,042|
High-school education is provided after the completion of secondary school and enrols students between 15 to 17. General and vocational high-schools prepare youngsters for life according to various curricular programmes. Graduates of high-school take a two stage admission examination administered by the Student Selection and Placement Centre to get placement in a University for higher education.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF SPECIAL EDUCATION
The first steps to provide special education in Turkey was made in Istanbul in 1889 with the opening of a school for children with hearing impairment. Shortly after, a section for visually impaired children was opened under the same organisation. This school offered education for children with hearing and visual impairments for thirty years, until 1919 (Milli Egitim Bakanligi, 1991). Two years later, the School for Deaf?Mute and Blind was established in Izmir, where children with sensory impairments received integrated education until 1950. In 1951, all visually impaired children attending this school were moved to Ankara to attend a new programme. This separation aimed to provide an opportunity for visually impaired students to obtain special education in buildings designed for them. Fatih Deaf School, similar to the one in Izmir, was opened in Istanbul, in 1944 (Milli Egitim Bakanligi, Talim ve Terbiye Kurulu Baskanligi, 1993). Although these schools had limited capacities and staff, they hold an important place in the history of special education in Turkey . They are the pioneers in the special education field.
In 1952-1953, another important attempt to extend special educational needs provisions was made in Ankara through the opening of a Special Education Department in Gazi Educational Institution. The education program of the department included courses on the education of children with sight, hearing, physical and cognitive limitations. Unfortunately, after a short time, the department was closed in 1956 due to financial problems.
Educational services for children with learning difficulties and gifted children were only started in the last half of the century. The first special education class and a Rehabilitation and Research Centre for children with learning difficulties was opened in 1955, in Ankara. Services have improved over the years but there are still an insufficient number of schools supporting the development of children with learning difficulties. The historical background of education for gifted children show similarities with the development of educational services for children with learning difficulties. A Directorate for supervising special education services has existed within the Ministry of National Education since 1980 (Government of Turkey-UNICEF, 1991). One of Directorate's roles is to maintain the quality and quantity of existing special schools. In 1983, a Law for Children in Need of Special Education was passed, stating new educational provisions and arrangements in the special education field. Later, disabled children who were capable of learning and attending a regular school nearby, were allowed to continue their education in an integrated program with normal children. This regulation has been in force since 1987.
The Turkish Constitution covers the educational, social security, labour and health rights of citizens with a disability. Although legal arrangements for the disabled exist, policies and regulations need to be improved and reflect upon real life for immediate solutions to the daily problems of disabled citizens. In this section, articles from the Constitution, regulations and laws will be stated and discussed in order to provide information on the importance given to the issue of "disability" in the Turkish legal system.
There are four articles in the Constitution concerning the disabled. The "Right to Education and Learning" states no citizen to be inhibited from having access to education and learning. The article proposes the State as "...responsible of enabling citizens with special educational needs to become productive members of the society." (Turkish Constitution, 1995, Article 42, Paragraph 7). Article 50 of the Constitution is the "Right to Work and Rest" which states children, women and ones with a physical and/or psychological impairment to be specially protected in job requirements. Disabled citizens have been specified in the article for "Social Services and Protection of the Environment" stating "Everyone has the right to live in a healthy and balanced environment." (Turkish Constitution, 1995, Article 56, Paragraph 1). The fourth article, numbered as 61 of the Constitution is "Requirement of Special Protection in Relation to Social Security". This article holds the State to be responsible for protecting the 'handicapped' and supporting their adaptation to the social life.
Besides the general articles of the Constitution specific legal arrangements have been made over the last three decades to set up and protect the educational and social rights of people with disabilities. An initial step was taken in 1971 with the "Regulation for Employment of Disabled" stating the possibility of working, under the condition of losing one's working ability between a minimum of 40% to a maximum of 70%. The people covered by this regulation are accepted as being disabled and will have access to the right to work accordingly (Özsoy, 1983). The ethical question is by whom and how will the loss of an ordinary person's abilities be measured in percentages. Even today, there is no psychometric instrument available that can measure loss in terms of percentages. In 1983, "Law for Children in Need of Special Education" was passed in which, 4-18 year old children with special educational needs were defined as:
One, who can not benefit from the normal education services due to abnormal differences in the physical, psychological, mental, emotional, social and health characteristics and situation.(Özsoy, 1983, p.193)
This law is contradictory with article 42 of the Turkish Constitution stating equal educational rights to all citizens. Abilities of individuals should not be expected to fit into the set pattern of education, on the contrary education should be tailored to meet individual needs and abilities. A more recent law passed by the Bureau of Social Services and Child Protection under direct supervision of the Prime Ministry described "handicapped in need" as:
One who can not adapt to the requirements of the normal life due to an organ loss resulting in a degree of function loss in the physical, mental and psychological characteristics; and therefore is in need of protection, help and nurturing. (Ölçen & Ölçen, 1991)
The latest legal arrangement was made and announced in the Governmental Newspaper in 1994, stating disabled children between the ages of 3 to 21 with an official statement of their disability to be eligible of receiving monthly "Educational Support Grant" from the Government. Yet, this Grant encompasses only children born to families with social security. Therefore, families having other types of security can not benefit from this legislation. The Grant is a limited amount of money in comparison to the monthly educational costs of disabled children. Still, this legislation is a step taken towards supporting disabled families' economic well-being.
Apart from the articles of the Turkish Constitution and the specific legal arrangements for disabled citizens there is one law in Turkish history that should be mentioned. The "Basic Law of National Education" passed in 1973 cites principles of the national education as: universality and equality, equality of opportunities, co-education, orientation, consideration of both needs and abilities of the individual and society, right to education by all, continuity, providing education at all places and under all circumstances, scientific methods, planning, and involvement of the family in school management (Government of Turkey-UNICEF, 1991). This list of principles of the law state powerful promises to all citizens without differentiation in abilities.
Over the years education has been used as a weapon for election campaigns by all political parties. Parties have made promises for improving the existing education system and making new principles in this area. Unfortunately, each government set up new educational principles, generally contradicting the system established by the previous governments in the hope of getting more votes. As a result the existing articles of the Turkish Constitution and legislation have not been fully implemented and all its possible applicability has been hindered by the constant changes in leading parties within the government (Ekinci, 1994). It is for sure that the existing legal arrangements are not sufficient to meet the needs of citizens with disabilities, yet are sources for taking positive steps to future.
Organisations Responsible for Special Education
A. Ministry of National Education: The pre-school, primary, secondary and high-school education is under the supervision of the Ministry of National Education. The Ministry was first established as the Education Ministry in 1920. It was changed to National Education, Youth and Sports Ministry in 1983 and was given its present title in 1989 (Sorguc, 1995). Similar to its title, the organisational structure of the Ministry of National Education has changed and expanded over the years. In 1980, "General Directorate of Special Education Services" was established under the Ministry of Education to organise the services given to disabled individuals and its title was changed to "Directorate of Special Education and Counselling" in 1983 (Frey, 1992). Responsibilities of the Directorate were listed as: (1) conducting education, training and management activities of special classes, special schools, guidance and research centres, vocational training schools and centres; (2) preparing education and training programmes, necessary books and resources and educational equipment for existing schools and institutions (Sorguc, 1995).
In Turkey, "Department for Guidance and Research" is responsible for the identification and education of disabled children. According to the Guidance on Special Education released by the Ministry of National Education, Directorate of Special Education and Counselling there are 105 Centres for Guidance and Research throughout the country (Milli Egitim Bakanligi, 2000). Parents are referred through public hospitals or apply directly to the Centre for Guidance and Research in the city they live in order to have an examination of their child's abilities and learning profile. The Centre applies IQ tests to determine the child's level of learning and includes a report for children at risk and children with disabilities. These reports are sent to the City Education Council which determines the type of education service available for each child. The Centre for Guidance and Research is responsible of contacting the families and explaining the possible educational services available for their children. These Centres also provide psychological counselling for children in need.
At present, a child referred to the Centre for Guidance and Research is assessed through an IQ test by a psychologist in one session and parents are not allowed to attend the assessment process. In addition, the report written about the child's development is based only on the IQ score determined by the psychologist. Therefore, the education life of many children lie in the hands of a group of psychologists working in these centres. Once children are given a report about their disabilities they lose their chance to attend ordinary schools and only some get placed in the existing special schools due to the limited educational opportunities. Unfortunately, the system of functioning in these Centres requires urgent modernisation. Some of the necessary changes determined during the Workshop on Child Rights (Izmir) in 1996 are:
Over the years, the allocations made for education from the yearly budget have always been less than the allocations for defence and weapons. Therefore, the amount of money transferred to the budget of the Directorate of Special Education and Counselling is even more limited in comparison to the number of children in need of special education.
B. Bureau of Social Services and Child Protection: The nation's right to and need for social services was defined officially by the "Law for the Bureau of Social Services and Child Protection" in 1983. The Bureau of Social Services and Child Protection which was attached to the Ministry of Health and Social Support in 1983 has been under the direct supervision of the Prime Ministry since 1989. According to the Law, the Bureau was established to cater "...a cluster of systemised and programmed services - for individuals and families who have been driven by external factors to experience economical, emotional and social deprivation - to meet the needs of the society and to discard the impoverishment experienced; to inhibit and solve the social problems and ; to raise the life standard for those in need" (IV. Ulusal Sosyal Hizmetler Konferansi, 1995, p.47). This Law also covers disabled citizens and their right to protection, help, care and development.
Social services for the disabled citizens are directed by the "Directorate for the Disabled". The Directorate is responsible for identifying the disabled citizens, supporting the disabled and their families to live within the society, protecting and caring for the disabled children and adults. The Departments within the Directorate are: Visually Disabled, Hearing Disabled, Physically Disabled, Learning Disabled, and Chronically Ill.
At present there are numerous establishments providing care and rehabilitation for disabled children and adults in teaching new skills and mobility (Sosyal Hizmetler Çocuk Esirgeme Kurumu Genel Müdürlügü, 1997). Services are grouped as rehabilitation centres, day centres for rehabilitation, and private establishments. Statistical data on the services provided by this Bureau is very limited and the quality and quantity of the existing services require urgent renovations and expansions.
C. Non-Governmental Organisations: Recently, various foundations, associations and private organisations have been established mainly in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir - the three big cities of Turkey. Limited number of other associations, generally founded by groups of parents with a disabled child, exist in other cities throughout the country.
3. Critical Analysis of the Existing Special Education System
Usually, such a section would start with numerical data on children with special educational needs. Unfortunately, the exact number of special children in Turkey is not known. According to the 1997 census the registered number of disabled children between the ages of 0 to 16 is 2,937,300. Yet, projections estimate 14% of the nation that is 8.8 million citizens to be disabled and 4.3 million of this population to be between the ages of 0 to 18. Turkey is a country in which the population growth per year is 2% and over 60% of it's 62 million population is living in urban areas. Thus, figures reveal the growing extent of the problems of the disabled population in relation to the growing numbers of the population and migration.
To date, educational services have been offered only to children with visual, auditory, physical and cognitive impairments. Recently, the Ministry of National Education has started trial programmes for gifted and chronically ill children as well. Education for children with impairments is offered at special education schools of the boarding and daily types, in special classes formed within regular primary schools or in regular classes integrated with ordinary students (Milli Egitim Bakanligi, 2000). At present, only about 0.59 % of children with special educational needs receive services. Thus, the statistics of shame and ignorance reveal only 25,217 students to have received education in the 1999-2000 education year, which requires urgent renovations in its quality and quantity. The numbers of students, types of schools and number of teachers are presented in Table 2. In the 1993-1994 education year, an official agreement has been made to attach a nursery section to all the existing special schools in order to expand educational opportunities for special needs children under school age.
Table 2 Number of Schools, Pupils and Teachers In Special Education in the 1999-2000 Education Year
|Types of schools||Number of schools / classes||Number of students||Number of teachers|
|Hearing impaired primary school||46||6253||3798||2455||950|
|Visually impaired primary school||11||1000||643||357||259|
|Physically impaired primary school||4||174||123||51||42|
|Learning impaired primarty school||22||1098||723||375||121|
|Hearing impaired vocational school||8||673||479||194||60|
|Physically impaired vocational school||2||71||54||17||17|
|Hearing impaired vocational school||8||673||479||194||60|
|Physically impaired vocational school||2||71||54||17||17|
|Education practice school (sld pupils)||62||2860||1945||915||589|
|Vocational training centre (mld pupils)||44||1409||1077||332||233|
|Job training centre (for adults with i.d) ***||3||764||573||191||97|
|Science & arts centre (gifted children)||5||122||50||72||6|
Problems experienced by children attending special schools; special classes; and integrated, ordinary classes can be listed as:
Besides the existing educational services provided by the Ministry of National Education, there are various governmental and private rehabilitation centres and care units serving under the Bureau of Social Services and Child Protection. According to the survey results released in June 2000 there are 163 private and 50 governmental establishments providing rehabilitation services for children (ageing from 0 to 18) with special needs. There are 7650 children in the former 3159 in the latter group of establishments throughout the country. The number of staff working in the private establishments is not known and the overall staff number is 1225 in the governmental establishments. Therefore, the total number of children receiving rehabilitation and care services in all of the 213 establishments under the Bureau of Social Services and Child Protection is 10809. This number reveals only 0.25% of the children with special needs in Turkey to be provided with rehabilitation services at present. Unfortunately, most of the existing both governmental and private establishments are working with limited resources, staff and training similar to the schools under the Ministry of National Education.
In addition to the limited services available for children and families it is the author's experience that, until recently parents have been viewed as the cause of their child's disability and very little explanation has been provided about their child's development. Families have the right to be treated with dignity and empathy in the presence of a child with special needs. It is still common to have boarding schools for children with special needs, which minimises the relationship with families. The importance of early parent counselling and cooperation with families is a slowly developing area of interest in Turkey.
In 1998, the present Prime Minister, Bülent Ecevit in his opening speech of the cabinet talked about the importance of education, job training and employment for people with disabilities. He defined the actual developed country to be one that does not only provide high quality education for special children, but one that also seeks placement in various work schemes for graduates. Although, the Turkish Constitution holds each work place (having more than 50 employees), responsible of employing people with disabilities at 2%, very few people with disabilities are given jobs.
In conclusion, it appears that special education is still being viewed by the government as being a burden on the national education. Urgent renovations are required both in practice and in legislation to enable citizens with disabilities to live an ordinary life. Firstly, the exact number of citizens in need of special care and education need to be identified in order to plan, develop and provide necessary services. Secondly, the causes of disability require specifying for developing preventive programmes towards the occurrence of disability. Thirdly, citizens with a disability should be provided with equal educational, social, financial, legal and medical rights like the ordinary citizens. Fourthly, the issue of disability should not only be approached from top to bottom, but also spurred on by the contribution of disabled citizens or people related to the issue of disability. Finally, the National Turkish Education should undergo change and development over the coming years. Reviewing the history about the development of provisions and practices in special education in other European countries Turkey has the chance to learn from their mistakes during the process of expanding services for the disabled citizens.
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