The Turkish government has announced that all students in elementary school as well as eight- and 12th-graders will return to in-person learning on Oct. 12. It was only pre-school and first-grade students that had been attending classes since the launch of the school year on Sept. 21.
Turkey's first-grade and kindergarten students started school on Sept. 21, as schools "reopened" with COVID-19 precautions amid a second peak of infections. While the class schedule has been adjusted to minimize social interaction, parents are free to keep their kids home from school as attendance is not mandatory.
Two school principals in the central Anatolian province of Konya died from COVID-19 on Sept. 13, a week before schools are due to open in Turkey. The Health Ministry reported 57 COVID-19 deaths overall on the same day, as well as 1,527 additional diagnoses.
Turkish schools are not ready to open, considering the lack of resources to prepare against the COVID-19 pandemic in the classrooms, an Eğitim-Sen representative said. Schools lack help staff and protective equipment, and safe distancing might be an issue, according to the expert.
Turkey's Education and Science Workers’ Union, better known with its abbreviation Eğitim-Sen, revealed that there are some 172 schools in Turkey where COVID-19 cases have been detected. The announcement comes as teachers are holding online make-up classes for the upcoming school year, scheduled to start on Sept. 21.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced that the reopening of schools on Sept. 21 will begin with preschool and first-grade students. “This implementation can show difference depending on the city, due to the course of the epidemic,” Erdoğan said on Sept. 7.
The average school supply expenses for a student beginning school in Turkey this year has increased 21 percent compared to 2019, according to an Eğitim-Sen research. The current net minimum wage in Turkey stands at 2,324 liras, meaning it would take nearly an entire month's salary of a minimum wage earner to meet the school costs of their child entering elementary school.
Graduates of Turkey's Islamic Imam Hatip high schools suffered in the higher education entrance exams with only 16 percent of them scoring well enough to enter a bachelor's program. The generally low rate of success in the university exam is a display of poor policy-making by the Education Ministry, said a representative of the teachers' union Eğitim-Sen.
Turkish teachers' union Eğitim-Sen has announced that some teachers from 34 schools across Turkey have recently contracted the COVID-19 after they were invited to schools to plan the academic year in advance. Eğitim-Sen said that authorities failed to undertake sufficient precautions to ensure the health and safety of teachers.
Education Minister Ziya Selçuk has announced that schools will reopen on Aug. 31 with distance learning, but face-to-face lessons will not resume until Sept. 21. Selçuk's comments came after the Health Ministry's Coronavirus Science Committee suggested that face-to-face lessons should be postponed for at least a month amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Only 11.1 percent of students who took the High School Entrance Exam (LGS) preferred to attend imam hatip religious high schools. Many poor students in Turkey are forced to attend the imam hatip schools due to lack of options where they live, or based on unsatisfactory performance on the entrance exams that results in them having no other option.
Two senior Turkish officials have told Reuters that the daily COVID-19 infection rate may need to dip below the more than 900 seen recently for the government to reopen all schools across the country. One of the officials said classes might have to remain online for some southeastern provinces. "The normalization is under way ... but the numbers should have fallen faster."
Turkish schools will start the 2020-21 school year on Aug. 31 to provide three-week long make-up classes, as students missed more than two months of classroom instruction because of the novel coronavirus.