6. Conclusions

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant period of disruption in face-to-face education across the world and in Turkey, affecting the education outcomes of millions of children. To contain the spread of the virus, Turkey also responded with closing schools starting in March 2020 and has been in the top 30% of countries with the longest duration of school closures between March 2020 and August 2021.


Turkish Government implemented various measures to enable continuous access to education. Several measures have been including moving from face-to-face education to remote education and delivering classes and educational content via EBA TV and EBA Online Platform, establishing EBA Support Centers, Mobile Support Hubs and distributing tablets with embedded internet to students in need. International and national NGOs also launched programmes to support and complement the central government’s emergency responses by supporting the remote learning efforts and also supplying educational materials, hygiene kits to children and families in need.


Despite the implemented measures, children, teachers, and schools faced many ongoing challenges in the process. Children’s access to remote learning was the primary barrier to children's retention in education during the COVID-19 pandemic in Turkey. Especially the children living in rural areas, children from disadvantaged households and refugee families experienced problems. Our study points out that Turkish children, and even more so Syrian children, entered the crisis with considerable gaps in having a supportive home learning environment ranging from the necessary infrastructure to access remote learning to adequate space to study at home and to quality adult interaction.


Considerable learning losses are predicted to occur among children, given the variation in the quality of their home learning environment. Our analysis results suggest that the inequalities among children with respect to their learning outcomes will rise and the learning score gaps between low and high achievers are expected to get larger. While designing remedial education programmes special attention should be given to child sub-groups such as those studying in certain school types or villages and small towns, and also poor children, and children speaking languages other than Turkish as these child sub-groups are predicted to experience larger learning losses.


Children are also at risk of school drop out and engaging in child labour. Following the same group of children between 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years, decreases in the net enrolment rates can be seen for 14-17 year olds with rates between 2.2% and 3.8%.[1] Our analysis results also underline that children at risk of school drop out and child labour are found to be at the 14-17 year old age group for Turkish children, and in all age groups for the Syrian children. Specific groups such as children living in poorer households, households with less-educated adults and with more children again call for more attention.


Teachers and schools also experienced many challenges during the pandemic. Teachers were unprepared for teaching online and struggled to transition to online education. Before the pandemic, many teachers had no experience with using the digital devices or materials for teaching online.


Challenges experienced during the pandemic point out to remaining gaps that could be addressed with policies and programmes (See Table 2 for a summary). Among the first measures that could be implemented is improving the internet infrastructure in rural areas and expanding the digital device support for all children. Apart from ensuring access to digital infrastructure, improving the home learning environment of children, measuring and addressing learning losses and detecting and supporting children at-risk of dropout are other necessary measures that could be prioritized.



References

[1] ERG. (2021). Eğitim İzleme Raporu 2021: Öğrenciler ve Eğitime Erişim. Istanbul: ERG