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In Turkey: Small Grants, Big Motivation

February 10, 2012

World Bank Group

The grants are relatively small, only around $4,000 to a primary school, up to $30,000 for a high school. But educators say, they are crucial for improving Turkey's education system, and for getting more children into the classroom.

Smart boards for smart students

In Emirdag, Turkey, eighth graders at the Azizye Basic Education School use smart boards to learn the history of the Turkish revolution. They say they like this new, interactive way of learning.

Sadettin Camci is an 8th grader at Azizye. "How I wish every school in the country could have this. Every kid could learn from this. Sometimes we learn by watching, sometimes by feeling, sometimes by hearing, sometimes by experiment."

His classmate, Fatmagul Keskin, agrees. "We learn all of our main courses this way, especially science, math, technology, history and English, all are taught to us in this hands-on way."

Targeting less wealthy areas

Emirdag is several hundred kilometers outside of Ankara. The city is heavily reliant on remittance money from Turkish workers in Belgium. And some families here are struggling—student enrollment at many schools here is below 90 percent.

With support from the World Bank, schools in poorer areas, with less than 90 percent enrollment, are eligible for small grants. 10 percent of Turkey's schools receive them.

The grants are designed, first and foremost, to raise enrollments. But they also aim to get the community involved in schooling, and they bring decision-making to the local level.

" It is great to be able to buy the things you need, it gives you great freedom, especially if it is for education "

Elvan Durmaz

Principal, Hatun Anadolu Vocational Health High School.

Local control

The schools decide how to use the money, which runs from $4,000 to nearly $30,000. Some use the money on buildings. The local health school paid to convert an old hospital into its school building.

Some schools invest in new computer centers, which are open to the public after school hours. Some use the money to offer Turkish culture classes, or even to build a basketball court. The basketball court has spawned a competitive girls' team, which is a great source of school pride.

What's different is that local school administrators, after much consultation with students, parents and teachers, decide how to spend the money.

"It is great to be able to buy the things you need, it gives you great freedom, especially if it is for education," says Elvan Durmaz, the principal of the Hatun Anadolu Vocational Health High School.

And, in a change from centralized control, the Ministry of National Education agrees. Unal Akyuz, of the Ministry in Ankara, says "The people at the schools in the provinces know better than we do what they need. The schools make the decisions depending on their needs."

The city benefits

In the city of Emirdag, 40 schools received grants, directly affecting 6,047 students and 367 teachers. But that's only the start. School administrators say the improvements are good for the entire city.

"What we achieved is a chain reaction. In town, we gained so much from the infrastructure point of view, as well as technology and socially. The whole community benefits," says Emel Kercin, who runs the school development project in Emirdag.

Number of students in benefiting from grants in the city of Emirdag