Turkey's education drive is focused on 8 years of compulsory schooling for all children between 11 and 13 years old. By reaching this goal Turkey wants to bring the education levels to the European standards.
Educational Reform in Turkey Reporter: Yakleks, 13. Every week, she travels this road from her village in the mountains of Eastern Turkey to her boarding school an hour away. Yakleks: We have a name. We are going to study. I want to study until the end. I want to feel sure I study and I want to have a job. Reporter: Yakleks is part of the country’s massive education drive, eight years compulsory schooling for all children. It’s costing Turkey $3 Billion a year to achieve. The aim is to ensure that no 11 to 13- year-olds miss out and bring education levels closer to European standards. Dr. Huseyn Celik: Turkey is working hard to the heart of the civilized world in every area. Turkey does not want to be perceived as a third world country, and the most important product as to being part of the civilized world is education. Reporter: Tackling poverty is also at the heart of Turkey’s reforms. So far this year for the first time in its history, the republic is spending more on education than defense. Before 1997, one in three rural children aged 11 to 13 were not in school. Most were girls. Turkey’s big bang approach to education reform amended almost overnight. Rural families were forced to send their children to nearby towns to complete the three more years of study. And as a result, school enrolment for rural girls have soared. Amberin Zaman: It’s mandatory, I think. It’s terribly important because certainly in rural areas, you know, sort of criminalizing and not sending your children school, people very often won’t send their children to school. So in that sense, I think it was a necessary, a long overdue step and certainly are for girls. Because very often, girls are the ones who are not sent to school. Reporter: Yaklek and 400 other girls are enrolled to the only boarding in Arzis(PH). When at 14, created especially for rural children in the eastern region of Van. But negotiating the cultural economic and geographic obstacles on the road to go to education in this region has not been easy. The reforms involved closing many small rural school building larger urban day and boarding schools and prohibiting children under 15 from working, major changes in the lives of poor rural families. Almost 150,000 children are now enrolled in boarding schools, a third are girls. After a week of lessons, these girls are on their way home to their village Arteren. It’s typical of the region’s futile Kurdish mountain communities. Yaklek’s father is one of three landlords and in a position to promote girl’s education. Male: I am very happy. I am doing my best. I am helping her schooling. I am encouraging the other girls in the way that you’re armed attending to go to school. I’m telling other people that my daughter is attending and they too should send their daughters. Reporter: Yaklek is one of eight children. Kiamet, her older sister now 22 says compulsory education came too late for her. Kiamet: I wasn’t able to go. If I had the chance now, I would continue from where I have left off but I don’t think I have the chance because they say it is your time to get married. In this patriarchal society, Yaklek’s mother and other women like her missed out on their education. All of them wanted better lives for their daughters. More opportunities, more independents. Female: In our time, they were reading the Koran and women were covered. There were no schools. Now that there are schools, the situation is different. I like the idea of her becoming a doctor. God willing, she will become a doctor. We wanted to go study very much. Our life is not good, maybe they can have a good life. Life in the village is not good. Here, it is tending for some cheap baking bread. They want to go to study and save themselves. Female 2: It’s not easy. There’s no female equality that’s impossible here. In the rest of the country, there is male and female equality, but here, the leaders are men. There were no compulsory education in my time but now we have got it and five of my siblings are studying. God willing, we will be able to support their study until the end. Amberin Zaman: It’s an extremely conservative area in religious terms. Religion has a profound influence over daily lifestyle. Sheiks and Imams, they all have a lot of influence. It’s a very male dominated part of the country where still today unfortunately, girls get murdered for such heinous crimes as going to the cinema with a man who is neither her husband or say her relative. So it’s very difficult to overcome those cultural and religious barriers.