I don’t know much about adult education or training design, but I know a little… I have been educated, trained, etc. for years in Turkey. I am well aware of education system’s issues and even its traumas. I also have some exposure to French and American systems of education. Additionally, I worked for an NGO for more than two years that has a high-impact adult training program on human rights.
A few months ago, I was asked to train. Designing and executing an adult training module brought back my memories about the education system and how we perceive education. Therefore, I decided to put my thoughts and observations on paper hoping they might be helpful to those who will train people who went through education system in Turkey. I should note that this article is far from being scientific and considerably speculative.
First things first: We care about education in Turkey. Education is highly valued among both educated and uneducated population. After all, it is the only way to “make it” in a very unequal and economically segmented society. It is also seen as the ultimate solution to -literally- all the problems we have, be it trashing the streets or bribery. The underlying belief behind that illusion is that you can “shape” people through education. This is the main myth of Turkish educational system. You can shape people’s values, beliefs, ideology and lifestyle through education. So, people who are gone through education are seen as an object, not individuals who have the capacity to find their own truth, values, etc. Education policies have been a medium for governments to impose their own values to the all segments of the society for years. In other words, you can kill millions of birds with one stone thanks to a very centralized and ideologically rooted so-called “national” education system.
Just like we don’t question what we are taught at school, we don’t question education itself either. Education, as it is, is more than enough. I will twist what Decartes said and adopt it to Turkish education system: “I was taught I am, therefore I am”. We don’t look for quality or results when it comes to education, we don’t care about developing critical thinking skills. If we did, there would not have been that many trainings around to suggest change, transform us in a day or two through lectures and Power Point presentations.
The worship to education results an incomprehensible appreciation to education of all sorts. This means if you are a trainer, your trainees will respect you per se. Though be aware: it also creates a hierarchy between the trainer and trainees. As much as you try to persuade the trainees that all opinions are equally valuable and there is not only just one “right” or “wrong”, you are the authority as the trainer in their eyes and whatever that comes out of your mouth is “the truth”. It may make things much easier for some trainers and much more difficult for others.
We cannot skip the “exam” obsession in Turkish education system. We learn to pass the exam. We don’t learn because we love to. Exams in Turkey are composed of multiple-choice questions that test what information you have, not the knowledge. This means there is only one correct answer and you don’t have to be analytical or articulate to pass the exam. If you are going to train people in Turkey, you should know that discussions are stressful for many people since we don’t know how to elaborate and argument. We were not given many opportunities to speak up at classrooms either. This means we have a fear of raising our voice. It gets even harder and unsettling if we don’t agree with the rest of the group.
To conclude, here are a few final observations and tips for trainers and educators who will train people in Turkey:
– Admitting that you don’t know something might jeopardize your credibility. In Turkish people’s eyes good teachers/trainers are good at hiding what they don’t know or they don’t have the right to not to know.
– Trainees expect you to give the right answers. This is how we were taught. We like to listen and be lectured. Interactive methods that will make us give right answers might make some of us bitterly uncomfortable.
– You are in trouble if what you contradict what the trainees were thought before. We don’t like when our previous learning/knowledge is challenged to be inaccurate or incomplete. Therefore, it might be your authority that is challenged at the end of the day.
– You are more credible as a trainer if you are a foreigner especially from a Western country, male and older than your trainees.
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share your own experiences as a trainer/teacher or trainee/student in Turkey.