Becoming a Thinking School for Student Development

Becoming a Thinking School for Student Development

As part of its efforts to develop critical thinking skills and make an innovative and interactive understanding of education widespread, ERG has organized teacher trainings at Hasköy Secondary School under a protocol signed with the Istanbul Provincial Directorate for National Education. The first stage of the training program lasted 11 days and took place from February-March 2013, while the second stage took 12 days and took place between September-November 2013.

The training program lasted 23 days in total, 20 of which were attended by all branch teachers, while Science, Mathematics, Turkish, English, and Religion and Ethics teachers took an extra three-day program planned specifically for their own branch. Featuring an innovative and interactive design, the trainings covered many subjects, such as learning and teaching processes and teachers’ and students’ roles in the classroom, with various exercises enabling teachers to develop their own pedagogic practices and work on a basis of questioning/critical thinking. According to preliminary evaluations, participants agree that these efforts should be made widespread.

School Leadership Program

School Leadership Program

Under the School Leadership Education Program supported by Sabancı Foundation, ERG aims to improve the school management practices of school administrators and administrative candidates. The trainings under this project were held in July 2010 in collaboration with the Ministry of National Education General Directorate of Staff and the Department of In-Service Training  with the attendance of 25 school administrators from Izmir, Kars, Nevşehir, Şanlıurfa, Trabzon, and Van. Enka High School Deputy Head Mustafa Balkaş, who has carried out years of extensive work in the field of school leadership, delivered a module positioning the school deputy as the leader of the school’s learning-teaching processes and covered topics including “peer coaching” and “understanding through representation.” Participants studied the book titled Ten Traits of Highly Effective Principals and completed activities to help them develop a school leadership model. In addition, assessments were undertaken during the training in order to measure the impact of the pilot and improve future trainings under the project.

Power of Thinking: Teacher Training Support Program for a Youth that Questions and Queries

Power of Thinking: Teacher Training Support Program for a Youth that Questions and Queries

The Power of Thinking: Teacher Training Support Program for a Youth that Questions and Queries project, initiated by ERI in January 2009, aimed to develop critical thinking skills among teachers as well as students to increase the quality of education in Turkey. Implemented with the support of Akbank and in partnership with the Ministry of National Education, 4,250 teachers from eight provinces benefited from critical thinking trainings with the help of 39 expert trainers and 148 junior trainers during the 17-month-long project. As a result of teacher trainings, 141,270 students were introduced to critical thinking teaching and learning methods. The main material used for the project is the Turkish adaptation of the book Teaching and Learning Strategies for the Thinking Classroom. The other material, the Resource Kit, consists of 66 texts spanning six themes: Discrimination, Environment, Genetics, Cultural Heritage, Globalization, and War.

ERG’s work in this area was also included in the book Schools for Society: Learning and Democracy in Europe, recently published by the Initiative for Learning Democracy in Europe (part of the Network of European Foundations).


Project Activities


Educational Materials


  1. Teaching and Learning Strategies for the Thinking Classroom Method Book

In consultation with David Klooster from Hobart and William Smith University and Charles Temple from Hope College, Prof. Gülgöz’s team adapted the guidebook into Turkish. The Method Book, which provides teachers with a catalogue of critical thinking, teaching, and learning methods to create a democratic discussion atmosphere in the classroom, was approved by the Board of Education on May 22, 2009 and distributed to trainers as well as teachers to be used in the trainings.


  1. Resource Kit

Led by Prof. Üstel, a team of writers developed the Resource Kit, which provides the teachers with the content to create an atmosphere that encourages thinking and constructive debate in class. The Resource Kit is a compilation of folders prepared under six main themes: Genetics, Discrimination, Globalization, War, Cultural Heritage, and the Environment. Each folder has one title page, which defines the general framework of the theme, and 10 subtitles each consisting of one page that provide the readers with the opportunity to focus on some main topics about the theme. It was approved by the Board of Education on January 6, 2010 and distributed to trainers as well as teachers to be used in the trainings.


  1. Resource Kit: Manual for Teachers

The Teacher’s Manual, which was developed by Dilara Kahyaoğlu, an experienced teacher, with the help of four junior teachers, is a set of in-class activities to be used with the Resource Kit. The Teachers’ Manual is awaiting approval from the Board of Education.



  1. Expert Trainer Workshops

Two workshops were held on September 8-11, 2008 and April 11-12, 2009 with the attendance of 40 people in order bring together experts from Turkey with those from abroad as well as to acquaint participants with the content of the Method Book and the Resource Kit. Lesson plans were developed and presented by trainers as well as participants using a wide range of critical thinking methods during the workshops.


  1. Expert Trainer Trainings

Two expert trainer trainings were conducted on February 25-March 1, 2009 and May 20-24, 2009 and attended by 39 people. Trainers as well as participants presented sample lessons, providing a chance to identify how to most effectively relay these methods during the junior trainer trainings. Participants were also requested to work in groups and prepare draft training programs for the training of trainers. These programs were shared and debated, providing insight on how to best plan the 10-day training.


  1. Trainer Trainings

Trainer Trainings took place in three stages (4+4+2 days) simultaneously in eight provinces, on June 25-28, September 10-13, and October 2-3, 2009 with the attendance of 148 people. During the trainings, sample lessons were presented and discussed and participants were encouraged to implement the presented methods into their own classroom trainings and to share their experiences with others.


  1. Teacher Trainings

Teacher Trainings took place in four stages (2+2+1+1 days) simultaneously in eight provinces, from November 2009-March 2010 with the attendance of 4,250 teachers. In the trainings, participants were encouraged to implement the presented methods into their own classroom.

Rights in Education

Rights in Education

“Children do not lose their human rights by virtue of passing through the school gates.” — Convention on the Rights of the Child, General Comment 1

Implemented by ERG between June 2007 and April 2009, Rights in Education I aimed to improve the legal framework related to the right to and rights in education and also to address the limitations in the implementation of the legal framework.

The main goals of the project were to expand the knowledge base and build policy dialogue on human rights in education; mobilize and increase the capacity of civil society groups on human rights in education; and raise policymakers’ and stakeholders’ awareness of the issue.

Accordingly, project activities focused on the following three objectives:

  1.  Development of a comprehensive and reliable knowledge base


Thematic compilation of international human rights legislation and national education-related legislation

Preparation of five thematic reports, analyzing the compliance gap between national and international legislation

Development of a website on rights in education for researchers, academics, teachers, and parents

  1.  Strengthened collaboration among civil society organizations


Establishment of a Rights in Education Network consisting of academics, legal practitioners, and NGOs working on education and/or human and child rights

Regular network meetings and workshops

  1.  Increased awareness of decision-makers, duty-bearers and rights-holders


Preparation of advocacy folders to be used by network members

Development of a guidebook for rights-holders about their rights in education, cases of violations, and possible legal remedies

Preparation of a guidebook, a website, and a participatory education model for children aged 10-14 on their rights in education along with an impact assessment study of these three intervention models

Rights in Education assessed national legislation in terms of both the scope and the requirements of the right to education in the context of international human rights documents and Turkey’s obligations deriving from ratified international conventions. A group comprising a broad range of experts, individuals, and institutions working in the field of education and human rights discussed and prioritized the recommendations formulated by the authors of reports that assessed the compliance gap between international human rights legislation and national legislation.


Recommendations for amendments in the legislation were grouped under five themes:

  1.  Rights-based approach to legislation
  2.  Child-centered education
  3.  Equality in education
  4.  Protection of the child from negligence, abuse, and violence in schools
  5.  Right to health in schools.

ERG, in light of the experiences from Rights in Education I, identified new objectives toward the greater goal of fulfillment of human rights in educational processes and environments. The activities for accomplishing these objectives were to be implemented through the Rights in Education II project between February 2009 and November 2010.

The main objectives of Rights in Education II were to build space for constructive dialogue on controversial issues; strengthen the political will to improve the legal framework regarding human rights in education through civil society collaboration and advocacy; and develop tools to be used by community-based organizations in monitoring activities.

The activities towards accomplishing these objectives were the following:


  1.  Expanding the space for constructive dialogue on controversial issues


Research on the current state of religion and education as well as bilingualism and education

Technical workshops and dialogue meetings to bring together different stakeholders and experts

Preparation of information notes and documents which include a joint statement of shared principles and policy recommendations

  1.  Enhancing the political will to improve the relevant legislation


Regular meetings and continued collaboration among academics, legal practitioners, teachers, and NGOs working on education and/or human rights to pursue advocacy activities (continued from Rights in Education I)

Advocacy activities, directed primarily towards the Parliament and the Ministry of National Education, to communicate the findings of Rights in Education I

  1.  Developing tools for systematic monitoring of the fulfillment of human rights in education


Preparation of a compilation of indicators to establish and monitor the extent of fulfillment of rights in education at the local level

The pilot implementation of certain indicators by community-based organizations

Preparation of a guidebook for other local organizations’ monitoring activities, in light of the experience of the pilot implementation

Gender Equality in Education

Gender Equality in Education

ERG, Mother Child Education Foundation (AÇEV), and the Association for Support and Training of Women Candidates (Ka-Der) were awarded a European Commission grant in September 2004 to conduct a three-year project called Raising Women: Reducing Gender Disparity in Education through Functional and Political Literacy, Parent Training, Collective Action and Advocacy. The project ended in June 2008.

ERG contributed to the project mainly by undertaking activities to improve local and national policy formulation, dialogue, and monitoring in the area of gender inequality in education.

Local Civil Monitoring Groups. Civil monitoring groups in Diyarbakır, Mardin, Istanbul, and Şanlıurfa worked to pin-point the obstacles against and inequalities related to the education of girls in their provinces and to develop solutions to overcome these issues. Other goals were communicating these solutions to city administration, monitoring the practices, devising means of spreading the positive ones and preventing the negative ones, and raising the awareness of decision-makers and the public.

National Monitoring Group: “Civic Initiative.” The Civic Initiative formed within this framework prepared a declaration for the education of girls and was signed by 14 NGOs and four academics.

Workshops. Stakeholders from the state and civil society participated in these workshops  which were held in project provinces. In 2005, the focus was on the schooling of 100% of girls, and in 2006 the focus was on the causes and prevention of drop-outs at the primary school level.

Millennium Goals and Gender Equality Conferences. The topics of the three conferences were “Gender Equality in Education,” “The Problem of Drop-outs in Primary School,” and “Interventions to Achieve Gender Equality in Education and Social Participation: Local and Global Practices.”

Study on Drop-Out in Primary Schools. ERIG also led the “Drop-Out in Primary Schools in Turkey and Policies on Monitoring and Preventing Drop-Out” study, which was published in 2006.

Best Practices. In March 2008, ERIG published an edited collection of innovative and successful practices towards the achievement of gender equality in Turkey and in the world.

Work on Gender. In June 2007, members of the national press visited Diyarbakır and observed the work being carried out within the scope of the project. In December 2007, a workshop on gender sensitivity in media was held in Diyarbakır with the participation of journalists from the local press.

German Turkish Teachers’ Academy

German Turkish Teachers’ Academy

The German-Turkish Teachers Academy project was initiated and organized by Herbert Quandt-Stiftung and the Education Reform Initiative (ERG) as a part of the Ernst-Reuter-Initiative of the Foreign Offices of Germany and Turkey. The project aims to strengthen the intercultural educational links between Germany and Turkey and to help participating teachers gain more knowledge of the other country in order to overcome prejudices and stereotypes and find common ground around school-related issues.

For the past three years, the academy has taken place in Istanbul, Berlin, and Izmir respectively. Overall, over 60 teachers have attended the meetings. Every year, presentations, panel discussions and workshops are conducted on a predetermined subject in the area of education. The academy gives teachers a chance to share their knowledge and opinions on the education systems of both countries, work together on intercultural learning, evaluate perceptions on the chosen subject within the field of education, and discuss recent developments.