In Turkey, the term “lifelong learning” has been regarded as the natural offspring of globalisation in a knowledge economy that was generated through competition, innovation, and rapid change. The idea is that through lifelong learning, adults are provided with more opportunities to learn and to enhance educational institutions in different forms.

It is a common tendency to consider life in three periods as (1) early childhood and formal education period, (2) business life period and (3) retirement or old age period. However, the idea that life is divided into three periods has started to change in the twenty first century. Changing demographic structure (longer life and more elder population) and work systems in today’s world has brought advanced age life period into the agenda. Turkey should consider its own demographic and economic features in the light of such new tendencies.

In order to develop lifelong learning, there is a need for flexible systems that take into account all previous acquisitions of the individual, regardless of where and how, and which facilitate two-way transitions between school and business life. Within this context, establishing National Vocational Qualifications System in Turkey will be one of the most important tools to respond to such need.

The implementation of lifelong learning policies necessitates multi – dimensional cooperations and coordinations. The rearrangement of particularly business life rules which constitute a burden to learn for the individual as well as measures and arrangements to be adopted for the education system are of great importance. For instance, while ensuring that educational opportunities are easily accessible by individuals, the cost of waiver for the individual to pass from business life to school should be made sustainable. Lifelong learning policies should be executed not only with the point of view of the Ministry of National Education, but also with the joint perspectives of other public agencies/institutions, employees, employers, professional organisations and non–governmental organisations. Such cooperation is also indispensable to receive a high level of return on investment for lifelong learning by establishing a practical and mobile balance between supply and demand. In order to gain positive results from lifelong learning policies, we need to maintain a long and decisive perspective and to define the priorities.

Turkey recently has shown economic growth; but people skills must be developed to cover the labour market needs so the growth will be sustainable. Compulsory education is not enough to reach the needed skills, adults should be able to learn throughout their lives. When Turkey’s changing demographic and economic structure is taken into account, lifelong learning has a particular importance. Working age population is increasing and it offers a very good opportunity only if there is is enough work. However, the labour market is not  enough to create jobs and some traditional employment sectors are quickly decreasing, such as agriculture. The majority of young people are unemployed in Turkey and the human resource capacity of the workforce remains at very low levels. Recent data indicate that 68.9% of adults over the age of 25 do not have (general or vocational) graduation from high school. Non-formal adult education is going to contribute to trainings and labour market reforms. It will also supports Turkey’s demographic opportunities and the development of skills needed for a growing economy. Lifelong learning is not only a matter related to economic needs. In the context of globalisation and today’s rapidly changing society, the access to lifelong learning is essential for social integration. Basic literacy and basic skills are not enough to find a job.

In recent years, there have been reforms in Vocational Education and Training in Turkey. The Turkish Ministry of National Education has been implementing a comprehensive reform process in all aspects of vocational education and training (VET) since 2004. The process is based on a new global understanding of VET. It particularly refers to the priorities of the Copenhagen Process of November 2002 along with national decisions set out in development plans, government programmes and declarations of the Education Assembly. The overall objectives of VET reform in Turkey are:

  • Raising the quality of the Turkish VET system to the level of EU and other developed countries;
  • Improving/updating the provision of VET in line with socio-economic requirements and principles of Lifelong Learning;
  • Paving the way to 12 year compulsory and uninterrupted basic education. Key elements being addressed during the reform process are as follows:
  • Linking VET provision with the labour market needs;
  • Developing occupational standards and respective training standards;
  • Development of competency based and modular VET curricula and learning outcomes;
  • Strengthening the social partner involvement in VET;
  • Increasing VET teachers’ and managers’ quality;
  • Complying with European Qualifications Framework and bringing in the lifelong learning concept;
  • Supporting the establishment of Vocational Qualification Authority.

In this respect, links have been set up between VET and the labour market. The labour market analysis, both quantitative and qualitative, is considered to be of utmost importance for the reform of the VET system in Turkey. A “Labour Market and Skill Needs Analysis” was conducted among about 5800 employers (companies with more than 10 registered employees) in 31 pilot provinces, implemented in a joint effort of ISKUR and MoNE. Statistical analysis of developments in the Turkish labour market as well as the educational sector was carried out. The aim was to provide to VET institutions and policy-makers with a background document containing well-analysed data on the long-term developments in the labour market in relation to developments in educational outputs. A special focus was given to the identification of gaps in the labour market in Turkey. A comparison between the developments in the labour market and the educational sector in Turkey and the developments of the EU in view of the Lisbon targets was carried out. A local labour market handbook was finalised in March 2007 on the “Labour Market Information systems”, introducing the objectives and methodology of local labour market analysis for periodic monitoring of the labour market. Currently ‹İŞKUR (the State Employment Agency) has been conducting similar studies in the area of labour market analysis in order to keep the work updated.

National Lifelong Learning Strategy

EU member countries are encouraged to develop national lifelong learning strategies which will develop and progress the lifelong learning systems. In Turkey, the National Lifelong Learning Strategy 2009-2013 has been put into practice in 2009. Improving the performance of the educational system and addressing the difficulties mentioned above are given in the action for all sections. There are action plans which will improve the access of pre-schoolers to education, reducing turnover rates and increasing the adult literacy rate. Additionally, various activities to strengthen the non-formal education and vocational education and training to improve it have been mentioned. The 2014-2018 Strategic Plan aims to raise awareness among national priorities for lifelong learning, promote lifelong learning courses and services, participate in lifelong learning for disadvantaged groups on various topics.

The most important subject today is that efforts are made to find a solutions for LLL’s problems/challenges by gathering new ideas. Then public awareness of lifelong learning for everybody need to be increased (refugees etc.), and  coordination and governance related to lifelong learning needs to be improved. The development of an effective monitoring and evaluation system  have to be put in place in Turkey.

Practical Results

We carried out 30 interviews with 2 groups. The first group are educators, teachers, school heads, inspectors and guidance professional. The second group is composed by lifelong learners. We wanted to know their point of views about lifelong learning in order to set up EU policy making on education and training.

We asked 15 educational professionals their background about lifelong learning. In the firs part, we asked 2 questions: “How do you understand lifelong learning?” and “Do you consider your organisation as a lifelong learning organisation?” 15 educators replied to this question at least with one of the criteria (The criteria are “development after formal education”, “the continuing development of knowledge”, “constructing personal and shared organizational lives”, “continuous vocational and professional development”, “variety of contexts throughout their lifetimes”, “formal and informal activities”, “personal autonomy”, “willingness and ability to manage one’s overall learning endeavours”, “independent pursuit of learning without formal institutional support or affiliation”, “learner-control of instruction”).
All educators replied that their organisations are considered as  lifelong learning organisations.

Then, we asked them the following questions: “What do you know about EU cooperation in education and training?” “Do you feel EU institutions take your interests into account?” “Would you be interested in participating in national/regional consultation LLL FORUMS that would allow you to express your views on EU cooperation in education and training?”. For the first question there are different answers, such as “exchange people”, “visiting abroad”. In this respect, we can deduce that educators see EU partnerships only as visiting and meeting. As regards the second question, 8 out of 15 educators have a positive answers and 7 out of 15 educator answered that EU institutions do not take into account their interest.  All educators were willing to attend to EU discussions-debates and all of them were interested in participating in LLL FORUMS.
Finally, all educators stated they generally follow national policy debates. All of them agree there must be a priority in lifelong learning in Turkey.

According to the survey, the main challenges to improve the dialogue between actors in the field and public authorities are insufficient information, insufficient introduction, insufficient guidance and the lack of experience.

We also carried out interviews with 15 lifelong learners with same the questions. The criteria was the same as it was for educators.  This survey shows that students have less information about lifelong learning.

The most important outcomes from the LLL-FORUM in Turkey:

  • Creating a Network for LLL;
  • The chance to get experience to all people while disregarding age and background;
  • Advertisement and financial aid;
  • Increasing public awareness of lifelong learning for everybody (refugees etc.) improving coordination and governance related to lifelong learning;
  • Development of an effective monitoring and evaluation system are the most important recommendations.

One “prominent fact”

Actions towards sustainable development and increased life standards ultimately depend on public awareness, understanding. Supporting all people to “join real life” is important not only for mobilising public support, but also for carrying out consultative work  and participatory approaches in all fields.

Main axis of fostering the convergence within Europe

Increasing public awareness of lifelong learning for everybody (refugees etc.), improving coordination and governance related to lifelong learning, development of an effective monitoring and evaluation system and collection of accurate and reliable data on lifelong learning, development of career guidance, a national qualifications framework to support lifelong learning, development of quality assurance related to lifelong learning services, a system for recognition of prior learning, adequate and effective funding for lifelong learning, development of links between education and work, increase the rate of school attendance to ensure the disposal of solid foundation for lifelong learning.

Find below a list of related links:

Adult Education in Turkey: In Terms of Lifelong Learning
Eduard C. Lindeman and the meaning of adult education
Formal, nonformal and informal education: A holistic perspective on lifelong learning
Turkish Statistical Institute
National Qualification Framework for Higher Education in Turkey
Bologna Process – Template for National Reports: 2007-2009 

View and Download Turkish National State of Play Report