The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) has changed the scoring system it uses to evaluate student grades in science olympiads it sponsors, giving private schools a smaller coefficient and thereby placing students from these schools at a disadvantage.
Scores had previously been calculated using the same coefficient for both private and state schools.
The change in the calculation system became known after TÜBİTAK announced the results of the first phase of its 23rd National Science Olympiad on Sunday. Detailed results were posted, only to be removed later on. TÜBİTAK says the detailed results will again be available on Aug. 18. For the time being, only the highest and lowest scores are listed on the website.
The regulation, partially published on TÜBİTAK's official website, introduced different coefficients for private and public school students.
Educators and students criticized the change for being in favor of state schools. A private school student who asked not to be named said: “What is TÜBİTAK trying to do by taking an interest in what type of school we went to? It should be an institution that encourages science. We have been preparing for this [olympiad] exam night and day. If it wasn't for the change in coefficient, I would have proceeded to the second stage. Who will recompense all our efforts? We will not leave [those responsible] unpunished.”
Kurbani Kaya, a mathematics olympiad teacher at Denizli Servergazi College, says putting obstacles in front of successful students harms the country. “Turkey is represented internationally in the science olympiads. If successful students [from private schools] are blocked, the country will be represented by less successful teams of students. This situation seriously harms the country in the short and long run. It's shameful for Turkey that this institution [TÜBİTAK] punishes successful students instead of encouraging them. I hope an end is put to this unlawfulness as soon as possible. It's against the law and the Constitution,” Kaya added.
Zafer Şimşek, a mathematics olympiad teacher at Samanyolu College, also said that TÜBİTAK's decision is political. “This decision is clearly political. All the recent changes in the education system are political. We will go to the judiciary. We cannot overlook such injustice.”
TÜBİTAK and many other institutions have experienced a number of government-orchestrated purges since a major corruption scandal broke on Dec. 17, 2013, implicating then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and several senior members of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). The purges within TÜBİTAK have since reached a level where the institution faces a serious risk of being unable to function properly. Former TÜBİTAK Vice President Hasan Palaz, who was fired on Feb. 21, 2014, for not obeying an order from “influential figures” to change a report in an investigation, said in June 2014 that over 250 engineers and scientists had been dismissed from the institution in two months.
While delivering a speech at the 22nd Consultation and Assessment Meeting of his AK Party in Afyonkarahisar, then-Prime Minister Erdoğan defended the purges of public officials, saying, “If reassigning individuals who betray this country is called a witch hunt, then yes, we will carry out this witch hunt,” in reference to members of the Gülen movement, popularly known as the Hizmet movement, which is inspired by the teachings of the Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. Erdoğan has accused the movement of a plot to overthrow his government, a claim the movement has repeatedly denied.
Published on Today's Zaman, 16 August 2015, Saturday