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Increased Compulsory Schooling: A Case Study of Turkey

In 1997, Turkey changed its compulsory schooling requirement from five years to eight years.

An article published this month by The Economic Research Forum of Egypt evaluated data regarding the effect of this policy change,“Does Longer Compulsory Education Equalize Educational Attainment? Evidence From A Major Policy Reform.” They had some interesting findings that are worth discussing.

The authors set out to evaluate changes in school attendance using two key demographics, place of residence (urban or rural) and gender. They wished to study whether the compulsory schooling led to a decreased gap, didn’t change anything or even if it made the divide greater. The gap was fairly significant when the laws went into place, and so if data reveals that the gap is reduced, compulsory polices show promise in other countries.

Prior to the policy, students who graduated 5th grade received a primary school diploma and had completed their government required schooling. Now, they must complete 8th grade in order to get a diploma. Since, it is now compulsory, the extra schooling is also free, but other costs still affect the ability of students to attend. The greatest one being traveling costs for rural students. The solution to this problem involved two steps, one, students were bussed by government transportation, and two, students were encouraged to attend boarding schools to eliminate the cost of transportation for families.

Because of its sweeping nature, the policy affected a large number of children all over the country. However, universal education still has not been achieved due to the lack of complete enforcement of the policy.

Regardless, the policy certainly proved to be a wise decision and something that others should consider implementing. The population that saw the greatest increase in students attending school through 8th grade was rural. There was little reason for these students to attend extra school, so only the compulsory nature of the policy was able to create an impetus to attend. This was slightly different for the urban population, since some students already attended more school for better employment opportunities. Women similarly had a large increase since extra education was not seen as beneficial, but now the law required it.

Some other indicators of the effects of the policy were felt in the number of classrooms. There was an as shown in the following figure:

The policy took a few years before the effects could be measured, since it was passed right as school was starting in 1997 and so it did not facilitate drastic new changes right away.

Their was also an increase in post-compulsory schooling because students in urban population now had to receive extra schooling in order to compete with other applicants, which again points to a positive impact of the law. However, the gap in post-compulsory education stayed the same among both urban-rural and male-female divides since it was not seen worthwhile to attend extra schooling beyond the required years for girls and rural children.

The following graphs show the exact increase in attendance (by birth year).

Two years were eliminated in calculating whether the positive trend after the policy went into effect was just a continuation of an observed general trend towards increased schooling. Both 1986 and 1987 were eliminated since students born in those two years would be around the age of six during the implementation and could have recently completed their 5th grade year and received their diploma, or be affected by the policy and have to complete extra schooling. The data was very promising! The trend after the policy was greater than the trend before even after other factors such as Mother Tongue were taken into account.

This data shows that women in urban areas benefitted the least. The reason probably being that access was not the problem for girls in urban areas, whereas the increase in schools to meet the new law made it easier for girls in rural areas to attend.

Turkey took a step in the right direction towards their goal of universal education for their children. What do you think they should do next? Reply Below!