The Merit System and Education
If you consider a country to be a machine, then factors such as education, production, discipline, stability, diligence can be said to be the gears for that machine.
When one of them malfunctions, the machine will inevitably fail. The system gets locked down. What we must do as a nation is to take each and every one of these factors and inductively turn them into a fully functioning system.
We need to improve these factors as a whole, rather than selectively. There will be no production without education, no success without work ethics, and no productivity without hard work. And without a merit system, we won’t have any of them.
Economic prosperity is the only measure of success in our current capitalist world system. The economic power of a country is the sole cause of its placement in worldwide rankings. The measure of success here is the level of branding and production for the goods and services you sell worldwide. The biggest investment a country can do for its future is to raise a well-educated generation. We cannot even mention success without education.
So, how effective has the merit system been utilized among our current and past ministers of education and their staff?
Our precarious position in that sense is painfully obvious when we merely take a look at out past Ministers of Education. Our educational policies were shaped by people chosen not based on their merits but rather on their political views and their proximity to the ruling government. With every government came people in power who set up their own cadre in public offices, implemented a policy of nepotism and friends-at-court, servility, that ended up rotting the educational system and putting the future of our children at dire risk.
Let’s take a look at the resumes of our Ministers of Education in the last 20 years:
Hikmet Ulugbay (6/30/1997-1/11/1999): A graduate of Ankara University’s Faculty of Political Sciences and University of South California. He has acted as a fiscal and economy consultant and has been a faculty member at Bilkent University. He was elected as a member of the parliament from Democratic Left Party. He acted as the Minister of Education in the 55th government, as the Deputy Prime Minister in the 56th and the Minister of Economy in the 57th. It Is still not clear why he was made a minister of education given his education and expertise.
Metin Bostancioglu (1/11/1999-7/9/2002): A graduate of Ankara University’s Faculty of Law. He was elected as a MP out of Sinop for Democratic Left Party. He left DLP in 2002 to establish a new political pahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erkan_Mumcurty named the New Turkey Party. He was the minister of education during the 56th and 57th governments. We still don’t know why a lawyer was put in charge of the nation’s education system.
Necdet Tekin (7/10/2002-11/19/2002): A graduate of Ege University’s Science Faculty, Mathematics Department. He became an assistant teacher of mathematics in Istanbul’s College of Economics and Commerce in 1976. He moved on to Marmara University’s Faculty of Economics in 1980. He got his doctorate in statistics in 1983, assistant professor in 1986, associate professor in 1989, and finally a professor in 1995. He was elected as MP from Democratic left Party in 1995 and 1999. He acted as the Minister of Education in the 57th government. He had to abdicate his position because of a governmental upheaval.
Erkan Mumcu (11/19/2002-3/17/2003): A graduate of Istanbul University’s Faculty of Law. He started his political career in Motherland Party in 1995. He was the Minister of tourism in the 57th government. He became an MP from AKP in 2002, and soon became the Minister of Education first, and Minister of Culture and Tourism later. He left AKP in 2005 and returned to Motherland Party as its Chair. The fact that he acted as the minister of two separate institutions shows us that merit does not matter in Turkish politics.
Huseyin Celik (3/17/2003-5/3/2009): A graduate of Istanbul University’s Faculty of Literature. HE got his master’s degree from London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies. He became the Minister of Culture from DogruYol Party in 2003 during the 58th government. He later switched to AKP and was appointed as the Minister of Education for the 59th and 60th governments. Another example of merit not making a difference when it comes to shaping educational policies.
Nimet Cubukcu (5/3/2009-7/7/2011): A graduate of Istanbul University’s Faculty of Law. She was one of the founding members of AKP and was elected as MP in 2002. She became the Minister of Women and Family Affairs, and a Minister of State. She was later made Minister of Education for two years by AKP. Yet, her resume shows no connection with education whatsoever.
Omer Dincer (7/7/2011-1/25/2013): A graduate of Ataturk University’s School of Business Administration. He got his post graduate in 1980 and his doctorate in 1984 from Istanbul University. He became a professor in 1994 and has conducted seminars and written extensively in the areas of Strategic Management, Management and Organization, Change Management and Organizational Development. Despite his credentials, he acted as the Minister of Labor and Social Security and Minister of Education.
Nabi Avci (1/25/2013-5/23/2016): A graduate of METU’s Faculty of Administrative Sciences. He got his doctorate from Anadolu University’s Information Sciences. HE has acted as Ministers of both Culture and Tourism as well as Education. There is no correlation between his education and his posts.
Ismet Yilmaz (5/24/2016-7/10/2018): Holds a law degree from Istanbul University as well as a mechanical engineering degree from Istanbul Technical University’s Maritime Faculty. His post-graduation degrees come from Sweden’s Maritime University and Marmara University. He has a doctorate in Maritime Law. His merits stipulate a position in the ministry of Transportation, but he was also appointed as Minister of Education and Minister of Defense.
Ziya Selcuk (7/10/2018-): He holds a college degree in Psychological Consultation from Ankara University. He later went on to get post graduate and doctorate degrees from Hacettepe University. He has long held positions as professor in various colleges and faculties. He has been active in NGOs specializing in Educational Policies. HE currently holds the position of Minister of Education.
This simple list of our Ministers of Education in the last 20 years clearly shows why the level of education in Turkey is on a steady decline, and how our children and our youth risk getting less than sufficient education for their future.
I hope that our politicians make or break the appointees based on their merits and not their loyalty and partisanship in the future.