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In this regular series, colleagues from across OUP worldwide share their views and insights into how their markets are navigating the changes facing our industry, and what the future has in store.

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When Turkey confirmed its first coronavirus case on 11 March 2020, we experienced many changes. As a developing country, the Turkish economy was severely affected. Together with the fast depreciation of the Turkish Lira, a decline in supply and demand increased the cost of borrowing. Since 20% of K-12 schools and 36% of the universities are private, the impact on the education system was perhaps more severe than in other countries.

Covid-19 has disrupted the educational life of all students, teachers, and parents. Education activities were suspended as part of coronavirus measures, with over 18 million K-12 students moving to distance learning. Furthermore, the Turkish Higher Education Council asked all 202 universities to switch to remote teaching, meaning that around 26 million learners in total did not attend schools in person in the 2019-2020 academic year.

All private schools did whatever they needed to do to ensure distance learning was delivered efficiently. The Turkish Ministry of National Education’s ‘Educational Information Network’ (EBA) provided 10,845 hours of broadcasting for a total of 7,695 courses and 936 extracurricular activities. The EBA website became one of the most visited sites in Turkey whilst the EBA mobile application reached over 30 million downloads. To address educational inequalities, the Turkish government distributed around 800,000 tablets through contributions of private sector organizations and civil initiatives.

However, we also saw a decline in the enrolments at private schools as students moved to state schools and, due to decreased purchasing power, schools were less able to implement new learning materials. With the promotional season for 2021-22 academic year underway, the economic challenges continue, with 936 private schools, of which many are Pre-Primary and Kindergartens, reportedly set to close.

A recent report published by OUP, ‘Education: The journey towards a digital revolution’, identified the main challenge in Turkey as unequal access to technological devices and a lack of familiarity with them. Low learner motivation was also seen as a barrier to effective digital learning. However, the overall transition to digital during the coronavirus pandemic was rated very highly by the respondents of the survey behind the report, scoring it 4 out of 5. Respondents in the region believe there will be a shift towards hybrid learning in the future as digital can never completely replace in-person teaching. However, there is a need for the government to work closely with educators to shape policy in the future and provide extra funding for schools and institutions, as well as for new technologies. It was also observed that “students’ levels of socializing, interacting with their peers and teachers, and doing exercises were missing”, highlighting the importance of promoting wellbeing in the learner community.

Oxford University Press Turkey managed to rapidly adapt to these challenging times. In the fourteenth month of the pandemic, we are prepared for another challenging year where remote teaching will continue to be our reality. We must continue to analyze how teachers, students, and parents are shifting to new ways of delivering education and respond accordingly with cutting-edge solutions. Deploying alternative means of customer engagement is essential and our promotion, marketing and professional development teams are creating new ways to support each and every customer switching from face-to-face to remote interactions, while still offering a high-quality experience.

The future will require more changes and innovations, bringing about new opportunities. We predict that flexible solutions for all types of education and a continued move towards blended and hybrid learning will be necessary across Turkey. While placing wellbeing at the heart of the way we work, we are confident that we will continue to provide quality content, high-caliber professional development services for teachers, and premium consultancy, together with our leading product range, to navigate the challenges ahead of us.

Erkan Akmeriç, Managing Director, OUP Turkey, Central Asia and North Africa