Home-bound due to the coronavirus threat, Turkish students have opted for online education, while dealing with fatigue and boredom due to a lack of outdoor activities.
Turkey has launched its distance learning platform that will serve nearly 20 million primary and high school students who are currently at home since schools shut on March 12 in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Turkey's public broadcaster, Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), has allocated five studios in Istanbul and three studios in Ankara for recordings that are aired through six different channels in HD and SD.
The government, according to Gokhan Yucel, advisor to the Minister of Education, "reacted to global pandemic within a week and created video lessons supported with EBA, which is currently one of world’s most advanced state-sponsored online learning platforms."
"More than 200 people worked to make the system ready to be used extensively on 23 March. This effort was a collaborative team work which also meant to record and edit lesson videos for the entire remaining K-12 national curriculum,” Yucel said.
Ahmet Kerem, 11, a sixth grader had his first EBA class on Monday. Both his parents have full-time jobs, but now with social distancing in light of the coronavirus threat, he and his seven-year-old brother spend almost all the time indoors with their parents.
His mother Esra, 38, a university lecturer, said: “Today’s EBA class was a wake up call to many children reminding that it is not a holiday break, the semester is still ongoing and that they have scheduled classes everyday. We had a break last week for them to relax freely but with EBA classes starting today they came to realise they still have an order in their life and responsibilities for their education as their teacher also assigned homeworks through EBA.”
There are currently 37,000 documents, 240,000 sample test questions, about 5,000 textbooks, supplementary readings, extra-curricular activities and at least 1,600 lessons taught on the EBA.
However the ministry announced that this online personalised content and distance learning platform is prepared to accommodate the educational system as a contingency plan if the virus continues to spread across the country.
In this initial phase, EBA provides a core curriculum programme aimed at helping students gain critical intellectual information taught by the selected teachers. Every morning, students tune in to their allocated TV channels according to the timetable for their grades and watch a 20-minute- lecture followed by a 10-minute-activity time. There are repetitions provided during the afternoon and evening for those who missed the morning sessions or simply need to revise the given lecture.
Zeynep Erva, 13, is an eight grader preparing for the Entrance Examination for High School (LGS) that is scheduled for coming June. She had her first online class after her secondary school closed because of the coronavirus.
“The interruption due to coronavirus did not impact my schedule, so I continue studying, going through sample papers and worksheets," Erva told TRT World. "But I miss my friends and sometimes my teachers because normally they would help me when I am stuck with something we would go through things together- I mean face to face. Now they send me their response through WhatsApp when I ask a question, but it doesn’t feel the same.”
Her mother Sabahnur, 39, says she was so excited about the distance learning experience that she woke up early in the morning to join her daughter during her first EBA class, which started at 9:00 am. She wanted to see it for herself as they take Zeynep’s upcoming exam seriously. Although Sabahnur is happy with the EBA classes as they provide training in all major courses, she says there is a lot more parents need to do as a follow up.
“You can’t expect too much from 20-minute classes. Parents need to repeat the lesson through worksheets or support what’s thought on TV with supplementary books. You need to make sure your children are doing their homeworks - because normally teachers would check on these things,” Sabahnur said.
Sabahnur says she also enjoys the information provided during the daily 10-minute-activity time. “It is useful for everyone. Even adults can watch it to improve their general knowledge. I mean all of us are sitting at home right now,” she said, explaining how these classes can help many adults make good use of self-quarantine.
Distance learning has become a necessity in times of coronavirus. While children, parents and teachers are trying to adapt to this new system, several major mobile network operators from Turk Cell to Vodafone have offered a helping hand. They are providing 5-8 GB free data access to the EBA platform users so that less advantaged families can access online education.
Things are difficult for her preschooler son, however. He finds staying indoors depressing. Sabahnur says he is constantly asking for a phone or tablet and switching from TV to other screens.
She says a lot of focus has turned to food. “Our daily routines are turned upside down," she said, "there is hardly any eating or sleeping order right now in our house. We are constantly thinking about what to eat? When we have nothing to do, which is the case most of the time at home now. Our feet take us to the kitchen unconsciously. We eat from boredom, not because we are actually hungry. And I’m afraid the whole world will come out of this quarantine obese with multiple eating disorders.”
Akif Ozan, 5, is a preschooler. His mother Zeynep says isolation made him lose appetite. An active child on any given day, Ozan loves outdoor activities and enjoys his time in school, where he would play with his peers. The past 10 days of being home-bound have been difficult for him. His parents have slowly lured him to play board games along with other family members. Zeynep hopes that they soon will be able to adapt to this new lifestyle.