Early Childhood Education for a Stronger Future
Submitted by: Zeynep Tuğrul, Communication and Public Relations Officer of Project on Promoting Integration of Syrian Kids into the Turkish Education System (PIKTES), Ministry of National Education of the Republic of Turkey
Turkish language education and therefore integration to Turkish education system can be achieved more efficiently and faster when the students start school at an early age. Pre-school education is essential in that sense. Moreover, one year of early childhood education has been accepted as compulsory education for the 2019/2020 academic year which was officially documented in the “2023 Educational Vision” of MoNE.
PIKTES conducted its first Early childhood education (ECE) activities during the summer period of 2019 in order to support social cohesion of children, their pre-school development process and provide an opportunity for them to have a strong start to primary school. It received positive feedbacks from families, teachers and principals. So, with the start of 2019-2020 academic year, Syrian and Turkish children were provided with ECE program, however all the summer classes were suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak until further notice. Therefore the student rate who attend ECE classes during the academic year are affected. With the inclusion of 2021 Summer Period, it is expected to provide 70,000 Syrian and 70,000 Turkish children with ECE during whole PIKTES Project.
Main activities of the Good Practice
The target group of this activity consists of 3-5 year old Syrian and Turkish children. 70.000 Syrian and 70.000 Turkish children will be provided with early childhood education (both in summer and academic year) services in 26 provinces during the Project. The exact eligibility criteria will be defined during the inception phase.
There will be two models for ECE. The first model will be the current implementation in public schools (within the academic year) with pre-school curricula which is already in use. The second model will be intensive pre-school education during the summer period in empty public schools for two months. Both models will include Syrian and Turkish children.
For early childhood education in summer period, a new program that prioritize Turkish language development and social cohesion will be developed. Teachers and administrative staff will be provided with trainings in regard to this program and the particular needs of the target group. Also, printed and digital educational materials will be developed or procured.
In 2019 Summer period, a structured summer education plan was prepared to facilitate Syrian children’s adaptation to schools in consideration of the duration of Summer Period Early Childhood Education Activities as well as the target group. Language acquisition and social adaptation skills were prioritized in the scope of this plan which also covered psycho-social adaptations. Additionally, opportunities were provided for children to get acquainted with the school culture, experience the school and classroom atmosphere, express themselves and their needs while also developing social, self-care, motor and cognitive skills.
In order to provide services in integrity, a training of trainers was organized for teachers and administrative staff assigned to Summer Period Early Childhood Education in consideration of the specific needs of the target group. Stationery, educational materials, supplying support, teacher’s and student’s books were provided to schools in the scope of the activities.
Ladybug coding set developed by the MoNE was used to facilitate the learning process of children during the Early Childhood Education activities. The ladybug is a coding robot which is operated by coding cards. The students used these coding cards to navigate the ladybug which taught them new concepts, vocabulary and subjects as it moved. The ladybug practices have become the favorite game of students who participated in ECE activities.
Students who needed assistance with their commute to school were provided with transportation services in the scope of the Summer Period Early Childhood Education Activities. Students were provided with lunch, which consisted of foods suitable for the age and development needs of the children.
The salaries of the administrative staff and teachers assigned to the trainings were covered by the MoNE.
A protocol was signed with a university to make an impact analysis of the education. It analyzed the contribution of the summer period early childhood education to the cognitive, emotional, psycho-motor and socio-cultural development of children.
Another study is conducted by the MoNE to evaluate the effect of the training on language and psychosocial development of the students. It is planned to improve all aspects of the early childhood education practices in next terms taking into consideration the results of these studies.
European Union Delegation to Turkey
How challenges were overcome
Due to the attack rate of Covid-19 and restriction of social contact, various precautionary measures have been taken by the Government of Turkey including the temporary closure of schools as of March 16th. Following the cancellation of the workshops on content development for ECE Summer Programs, the related content development process is carried out via remote working. Technical specification sheets for equipment, education materials and stationery to be distributed in scope of Summer ECE Program have been prepared.
Physical capacity problems were encountered due to the high number of students. Many of the schools had to apply double-shift schooling. In this sense, it was observed that it is necessary to build new schools.
One of the most prominent challenges in 2019 summer period was that there was not a cleaning staff in every institution where Summer ECE program was applied. This challenge was overcome by assign cleaning staff particularly to schools with high number of students.
In order to emphasize the importance of early childhood education and to reach Syrian and Turkish families, promotional and informative materials were developed and distributed.
Cooperations with the relevant institutions, universities, experts and NGOs will be established.
Results of the Good Practice
19,110 foreign students and 18,043 Turkish children (Total:37,153) benefited from the Summer Period Early Childhood Education in 2019.
With the start of 2019-2020 academic year, a total of 58,376 Syrian children and Turkish children were provided with ECE program. As April 2020 data shows, a total of 95,529 Syrian and Turkish children received ECE including 2019 summer period (49,763 Syrian and 45,766 Turkish children). Even though PIKTES Project had expected to reach 25,000 children only for its 2020 summer ECE Program, all the summer classes were suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak until further notice. With the inclusion of 2021 Summer Period, it is expected to provide 70,000 Syrian and 70,000 Turkish children with ECE during whole PIKTES project.
Various supports in 2019 Summer Period were provided as follows:
- Supplying materials for 675 classrooms
- Stationery support for 2,008 classrooms
- Educational material for 1,507 classrooms
- 2,115 briefing set for teachers
- 40,300 course-books for students
In-service training for MoNE pre-school teachers.
In-service training on inclusive education is provided to pre-school teachers who will take part in summer early childhood education in order to improve their capacity in early childhood education. In addition, training is organised for teachers serving children who will receive game chest and their parents in a home environment.
Before the trainings within the scope of this activity, a “Needs Analysis” study related to each subject is conducted.
Two impact analysis (Qualitative and Quantitave Impact Analysis) of Early Childhood Education, which was implemented in the Summer of 2019, conducted by 2 different universities in Turkey helped collecting opinions of the parents of Syrian students who participated in the early childhood education program, teachers and administrators who were assigned to ECE program on the education services provided as well as their recommendation on how to improve the program. According to the results of the Impact Analyses, the Early Childhood Education Programme has been revised.
All families stated that they were content with the summer period early childhood education program. The parents stated that their children were more in touch with them thanks to the education program, they started to behave nicer and were more comfortable to communicate after the trainings.
Teachers emphasized that the most significant objective of the project is to increase children’s adaptation to school, their socialization, integration into the education system and preparedness for school. It was underlined that students' adaptation to school increased with practices on learning the school rules, communicating with teachers and other school staff. In this context, it was also stated that games encouraging joint participation of both Syrian and Turkish students were effective on improving interaction and dialogue between them. On the other hand, it was found that ECE program helped students acquire basic behavioral skills such as toilet use, greeting, cleaning and being attentive with clothing. Finally, it was stated that students were able to learn basic Turkish words (such as hello, how are you, goodbye etc.) which improved their communication skills.
School administrators and teachers stated that the summer period early childhood education program provided a chance for them to have new experiences and develop knowledge on contribution of ECE on the socialization of students.
School administrators stated that they had capacity problems due to the fact that there were many students, they had to switch to double-shift schooling, that it is necessary to reduce the number of students in their schools and otherwise their integration into the education system would be difficult.
Regarding Turkish competency, psychomotor capabilities, self-care ability and social cohesion, children participated in ECE Summer Program have closer performance to their peers who had early childhoold education in the previous academic year. When compared to their peers who didn't receive any kind of early childhoold education, children from ECE Summer Program perform better in all aspects. The other study shows that ECE Summer Program had a significant positive effect on the children and helped them to be ready for first grade of the following academic year.
Since the number of students in some schools was much higher than the school capacity, some schools started to apply double-shift schooling and administrators have stated that it is necessary to build new schools. Additionally, due to the fact that the number of Syrian students were higher than Turkish students in some schools, it was stated that it is necessary to provide transportation to transfer Syrian students to other schools in the same province in order to at least equalise the number of Syrian and Turkish students.
All these data show that Summer Period Early Childhood Education activities contribute to the social and cultural adaptation of Syrian children and support their development processes and preparedness for primary school even though they were applied intensely in a limited period of time.