IT Education

Turkey

Economic News

22 Jul 2010
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Education, development and information technology (IT) go together - a principle Turkey has increasingly voiced over recent years, with IT officially earmarked as a strategic sector of the economy. However the government needs to overcome a number of hurdles if Turkey is to realise the full potential of IT both as a tool to educate and as a growing profession.



The government has undertaken initiatives to increase IT awareness, including introducing broadband internet in schools. Deputy Prime Minister Nazim Ekren recently estimated that 34,000 schools across the country would have broadband access by the end of the year.



However IT analysts have said the government must develop a strategy to minimise the total cost of providing information technology equipment to schools, including the replacement of hardware.



Training qualified IT technicians is also proving a challenge. Educators underline the need to increase the quality of public sector vocational training.



"The vocational education system for information technology is weaker than the mainstream system of education itself in Turkey. Our country needs technological investment and lacks trainers," said Hakan Cevik, general manager of Bilge Adam, a private consulting, software development and IT training company.



Part of the problem derives from a lack of coordination and friction among governing bodies. Insiders point to the tension between the council of higher education (YOK) and the ministry of national education as a deterrent to vocational training. In January, a dispute arose between the YOK and the ministry over whether graduates of religious 'imam hatip' schools should be permitted to attend any state university, as these students are currently allowed to enrol only in divinity faculties.



"The ministry of national education, the council of higher education and the ministry of labour and industries in Turkey do not talk to each other," said Cevik. "The secularist battle and debate over the imam hatip has had much to account for."



Plans to set up a ministry of science and technology - which insiders have said could contribute to greater IT development in Turkey - have so far failed to materialise. IT professionals would also like to see the appointment of a minister solely responsible for communications and information technology.



While acknowledging the need for greater coordination at the government level, other members of the IT industry say the quality of IT graduates is more than satisfactory, as those students coming from selective upper-tier institutions possess the necessary skills.



"We have no problem in terms of information technology graduates. Thousands of IT graduates emerge each year and the quality is good," said Derya Hatiboglu, chief operating officer of Alcatel-Lucent in Turkey, the producer and seller of telecommunications equipment.



The private sector is also investing in IT education in Turkey. In March 2007, Oracle Turkey and the US-based Oracle Education Foundation, in partnership with the ministry of education, unveiled an interactive online program that allows students across the world to connect and work on joint projects. On its launch, it was announced that 1684 Turkish students and teachers would participate.



Other players in the industry have taken an equally hands-on approach. Intel sponsors university computer labs in Turkey, while Bilge Adam has applied to the council of higher education to establish an IT community college.



That information technology is of increasing interest to Turkey is of little surprise, spurred on by the growth in per capita income and rising internet access. Statistics released by a business intelligence publication in September 2007 show that the number of internet users per 100 individuals in Turkey is projected to increase from 28.7 in 2006 to 35.1 in 2007 and 50 in 2010. Ownership of personal computers stood at 72 per 1000 individuals in 2006, with the figure expected to increase to 86 by the end of this year and 134 by 2010. With 65% of the population below the age of 34, IT education will play a crucial role in the future of the country's economy.

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