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     Prepared to ESREA Conference


European Perspectives on Life History Research: Theory and

    Practice of Biographical Narratives


     Université De Genéve, Geneva, Switzerland

    thth7 - 10 March 2002


     Dr. Ahmet DUMAN

     Ankara University

     Faculty of Educational Studies



     Dr. Ahmet DUMAN

     Associate Professor of Adult Education, Ankara University


    There is, of course, a great “turn” to the biographic methods in the studies of not only adult education but also social sciences. A number of conferences and publications have been done in this context. However, it needs to be widened participation into these activities in order to contribute significantly to the formation and improvement of research trends in Europe and world-wide. For that reason, academic dialogue through networking, sharing experiences and joining conferences on biographic research methods is paramount.

    This paper seeks to analyse present situation of adult education research in Turkey. Main aim of this study, first, is to present general perspectives of adult education research in Turkey. Secondly, it is intended to analyse university-based adult education research perspectives in terms of contents, methodological aspects, funding, dissemination of the results, quantity and continuity of surveys, trends, issues and tensions. Finally, it is also aimed to discuss how adult education research in Turkey may be included into most recent adult education research trends in Europe by joining Life History and Biographic Research Network of ESREA.

    This paper is mainly based on the documentary reviewing of the 120 thesis which was carried out as either postgraduate or postdoctoral researches at the Bosphorus University and Ankara University from 1978 to May 2001. By this study, it is hoped to make significant contributions to the field of adult education in Turkey in the direction of better research design, connection of European research perspectives and, of course, professionalisation of adult education

2.Education and Adult Education in Turkey

    Turkey is a developing country which is located at the gateway of the three continents; Europe, Asia and Africa. And it is also a bridge between the Europe and Asia as geographically, culturally and socially. It has a land area of 780 580 square kilometres with 68 million population. Turkey is a unique country whose 99 % of the population is Moslem, and is based on democratic and secularist system of government with a pluralist and parliamentary system. Administratively, country is divided in to 80 provinces (county) and 912 sub-provinces (district).

    Turkey, as mentioned by Hale (1994), is uniquely positioned at the centres of three important upheavals: the disintegration of the USSR, conflicts in Balkans, and the continuation of challenges to peace in the Middle East. Turkey has been trying to cope with a Kurdish separatist movement since 1984. The Southeast part of the country has been in a state of emergency for almost 23 years. Turkey has also some problems with almost all neighbour countries at the region: Aegean and Cyprus issue with Greece, the allocation of water resources problem with Syria and Iraq, and problems with Iran,

    Iraq and Syria due to their logistic support for Kurdish separatists. In addition to this, Turkey is trying to become a full member of the EU. A custom unification agreement was signed between the EU and Turkey at the beginning of 1996. There was a constant objection amongst the European countries to full Turkish membership of the EU. However, Turkey has been accepted as a “candidate state” to full membership in 10-11 December 1999 again by the European Parliament after the Helsinki Submit. European Union Commission has prepared and passed “Accession Partnership Document” to the Turkey in 8 November 2000. National Program has been prepared as based on “Accession Partnership Document”, and published in the Official Gazette

    of Turkey on 19 March 2001 by the European Union General Secretary of Turkey with the consensus of Coalition Parties.

    In general speaking, public administration system is based upon centralisation and deconcentration rather than decentralisation through the highly centralised decision making in capital city with a division of responsibility among a number of ministries. So, education system in Turkey is over-centralised. Almost all decisions are taken by the Ministry of National Education located at the capital city, Ankara.

    According to Basic Law of National Education, enacted in 1973 no:1739, education system in Turkey consists of two main parts as formal and non-formal education. Specific objectives of non-formal education or adult education are defined in accordance with the general objectives and basic principles of national education as follows;

    ; Providing educational opportunities for people's adaptation to the scientific, technological, economic, social and cultural development of the society. ; Teaching literacy, providing life-long educational opportunities to those whose education is incomplete.

    ; Providing education to safeguard, develop, orientate and establish our national cultural values.

    ; Assisting adults to understand and develop the habits of collective living, solidarity, co-operation, collaboration and organisation.

    ; Teaching to people necessary nutritional and health habits for increasing the living standards and economic efficiency.

    ; Helping to adults acquire the habits required to use leisure time efficiently. ; Providing short-term courses and training opportunities to adults for learning new professions and technical skills in accordance with the employment policy and development of the economy.

    ; Providing the opportunities of continuing education to working persons for improving their professions and skills (MEB 1985).

    Despite the fact that there are many adult education providers in Turkey as volunteer bodies, local governments, and other official bodies, the Ministry of National Education is considered in terms of the most dominant and main adult education provider. General Directorate of Apprenticeship and Non-formal is the responsible unit for all sorts of adult educational practices through the country. There are 912 Adult Education Centres which are established in each sub-province (district). In addition to the Adult Education Centres , Practical Craft Schools for Girls, Advanced

    Handicraft Institutes, Technical Education Centres for Adults, Apprenticeship Training Centres, Turkish-German Vocational Training Centres and Evening Schools are the considerable adult education foundations of the Ministry of National Education.

3.General Perspectives on Adult Education Research in Turkey

    Adult education in Turkey is quite new academic field despite its longer history of social practices: First Ph.D. degree on adult education was given in 1983. Although adult education departments have closed down twice since 1965, adult education in Turkey as both social practices and academic discipline is unavoidably necessary. Therefore, we as adult educationalists in Turkey need to get in touch with European Colleagues to share experiences, to learn and justify what they are trying to do for professionalised and better field of adult education and adult educational research approaches.

    Adult education may be seen as one of the priority policy areas in rhetoric when some educational acts and policy documents are examined and evaluated. However, adult education in Turkey has not a policy priority in reality. Because, adult education in Turkey mainly is concerned with socially excluded, underprivileged and politically underrepresented groups. There are many indicators of this general conclusion. For example, all adult education departments in Turkey, totally three departments, have been closed down in 1997 as based on the World Bank and IMF supported educational projects.

    As mentioned earlier, this paper is mainly based on the documentary reviewing of the 120 thesis which was carried out as postgraduate research at the Bosphorus University and Ankara University from 1978 to May 2001, and 10 postdoctoral research which were carried out for academic promotion. Because of the low level of status for adult education field, surveys in this field are overwhelmingly carried out at the university departments of adult education. Therefore, it can be concluded that adult education surveys are mainly university-based works.

    Five major themes on adult education research in Turkey are included in this section. These are: Scopes and topics of; Methodological aspects; Quantity and continuity of surveys; funding and dissemination of the results.

3.1.Scopes and Topics

    As it is known, adult education is socially constructed, culturally bounded, politically driven and highly contested terrain of theory, policy and practices (Duman 1997:1). Adult education is, therefore, should be seen in the political, social, economic and educational context of a country. Because, as it is mentioned by Bélanger and Blais (1995:11), socio-economic and political context of the different countries influence not only structures and development of adult education but also choices of research scopes, topics and perspectives.

    When 120 research were examined and evaluated, scopes and topics of adult education research in Turkey can be categorised under the 11 groups:

Research on the adult educators and the provisions of adult education centres :

    Adult education centres are state controlled establishments which depend on the Ministry of National Education, General Directorate of Non-formal and Apprenticeship Education. The number of adult education centres is 922 (MEB 2002). 20 out of 120 research were carried out in this topic. Some examples of these research topics are: Administrative Processes in the Adult Education Centres; In-service Training Needs of the Directors and Assistant Directors of Adult Education Centres; Quantitative State of Adult Education Courses; Supervision in the Adult Education Centres.

Research on the examination of other types of adult education provides: There

    are many adult education providers in Turkey. They can be classified in terms of: (a)

    The Ministry of National Education, (b) Other official bodies, ( c) Local governments,

    and (d) Nongovernmental organisation (Duman & Williamson 1996:293-297). In this sense, other types adult education providers refer all providers with the exception of the Ministry of National Education. 25 out of 120 research were carried out in this topic. Some examples of these research topics are: Worker Unions” Educational

    Activities and Adult Education; Adult Education Functions of the Museums on Turkey; State-Owned Theatres and Adult Education; Public Libraries and Adult Education.

Research on Media and Adult Education: 15 out of 120 research were carried out

    in this topic. Some examples of these research topics are: Agricultural Extension; Agricultural Education Through TV; Radio and Rural Development.

Research on Vocational Education and Apprenticeship Training: 11 out of 120

    research were carried out in this topic. Some examples of these research topics are: Formal Vocational Training of Adults; Problems and Educational Expectations of the Apprentices; Apprentices` Views on Working and Training Conditions.

Research on Adult Learning: 9 out of 120 research were carried out in this topic.

    Some examples of these research topics are: Political Learning of the Turkish Youth who live in Germany; Impacts of Reading Groups on Individual Development; Cognitive Factors in Language Acquisition of Adults.

Research on Community Development: 8 out of 120 research were carried out in

    this topic. Some examples of these research topics are: Impacts of the Co-operation on Village Life; Community Development: Case of Tokat City; Application of Community Development in the South East of Turkey as An Adult Educational Method.

Research on Adult’s Participation: 8 out of 120 research were carried out in this

    topic. Some examples of these research topics are: Participation Barriers of the Adult Learners; Demographic Characteristics and Motivational Reasons of the Adult Learners; Motivational Orientations of Adult Learners.

Research on Educational Needs of Adults: 8 out of 120 research were carried out in

    this topic. Some examples of these research topics are: Educational Needs of the Migrant Adults; Educational Needs of the Shanty Settlers.

Research on Adult Literacy: 7 out of 120 research were carried out in this topic.

    Some examples of these research topics are: Illiteracy Problem in Turkey; Negative Impacts of the Illiteracy on Women‟s Life; Problems of the Literacy Campaign Teachers.

Research on Non-governmental Organisations and Environmental Education: 3

    out of 120 research were carried out in this topic. Some examples of these research topics are: Environmental Sensitivity and Adult Education; The roles of the Non-Governmental Organisations on Human Right and Democracy Education.

    The others: There are six researches which are out of concern above mentioned classifications. Some examples of these research topics are: Parent Education and Adult Education; Ballad Traditions and Adult Education.

3.2.Methodological Aspects

    Adult education research methodology in Turkey is overwhelmingly based on descriptive rather than experimental or action research. 100 out of 120 research have used descriptive research models. In addition, quantitative research approach is largely used for adult education research in Turkey. Although there are some attempts to combine qualitative and quantitative research methods in most recent adult education research, they are not enough to transform quantitative approach towards qualitative and participatory. The number of the qualitative and quantitative combination is only 11 out of 120.

    On the other hand, there is little sophistication in the use of quantitative data. Analyses of the quantitative is heavily based on descriptive statistics rather inferential and combination of descriptive-inferential statistical techniques. While 12 out of 120 adult education research did not use any statistics, 54 out of 120 used only descriptive statistics for a simple and unsystematic presentation of the quantitative data. Descriptive statistical methods in this sphere are mainly frequency, percentage and mean. In the 50 out of 120 adult education research, combinations of descriptive and inferential statistics, predominantly Kay square, are favoured. 4 theses are not available in the university library.

    Population and sample of the adult education research and the appropriateness of the population-sample and the title of research are also another weak point of adult education research in Turkey. It is not easy to say that systematic sampling techniques used in the quantitative researches. The inappropriateness rate of the sampling and the title of research is 21.6 %. In addition, there isn‟t any information about sampling procedures and techniques in 10 theses.

    Finally, it would be argued that dominant paradigms in adult education research in Turkey are positivist, quantitative and descriptive in terms of their methods, collection and analyses of the data. New and little emphasis on the qualitative research methods are present at this moment. However, it needs to be improved and widened through national as well as international co-operation and dialogue towards life history research and biographical narratives. This methodological turn is necessary not only for adult education but also for social sciences and educational sciences.

3.4.Quantity and Continuity of Surveys

    As mentioned earlier in this paper, due to the low level of status for adult education field as an academic discipline in Turkey, surveys in this field are overwhelmingly carried out at the university departments of adult education. From 1978 to May 2001, 110 thesis as the adult education researches were carried out as postgraduate theses or dissertations at the Bosphorus University and Ankara University, and 10 postdoctoral research which were carried out for academic promotion. Therefore, it can be concluded that adult education surveys in Turkey are mainly university-based works.

    First master theses was carried out in 1978 while the first Ph.D. degree was given in 1983 in Ankara University of Turkey. When adult education field is compared with other disciplines in the educational sciences, adult education field is 10 years late in the given of first Ph.D. degree.

    Distribution of adult education researches in years shows that distribution and continuity of adult education research is fluctuated. While only one survey was carried out in1981, it was 13 in 1985. In same manner, while only one survey was carried out in1990, it was 9 in 1988 and 10 in 1993. Possible reasons of this situation may be summarised as follows: (1) Adult education departments has closed down twice in

    1982 and 1997. Currently there is not any adult education departments in Turkish Universities although many universities have established their continuing education centres in order to commodate education as a commercial service and good. In 1997, Adult Education departments have closed down through a World Bank and IMF controlled project which is called Educational Development Project. By this project, education is undervalued to the teacher training in order to reply urgent teacher needs of secondary, primary and pre-primary schools. (2) Although Turkish education system

    is formed as formal and nonformal according the Basic Act of National Education in 1973, non-formal part of educational system has a low level of status . Therefore, the status of adult education research has remained marginal, dispersed, unsystematic and discontinuing. (3) A conceptual tension is present among the adult education, popular education, non-formal education and continuing education. While term „non-formal

    education‟ is favoured in the official documents and organisational naming, term „popular education‟ is commonly used to refer literacy and simple craft skills acquisition for young girls and women. On the other hand, the use of term „adult education‟ is gradually increasing, and the term „continuing education‟ is increasingly used to refer vocational training provisions of the universities.(4) Lack of academic

    dialogue among adult educationalists is paramount importance. Lack of academic dialogue and co-operation in the field of adult education limits not only professionalisation of adult education but also planning and co-ordination in channelling adult education researchers.

3.5.Funding and Dissemination of the Results

    University-based adult education research suffers from lack of financial support because research on adult education, as mentioned by Hake (1995:149) has not achieved high profile within the universities in any part of Western European countries. In Turkish case, there is, of course, some grant mechanisms for research in the

    universities. However, these limited resources are generally used for medical and engineering sciences. The application and distribution principles are determined in accordance with the nature and demands of above mentioned fields. In most recent years, appointment of research assistants in the field of adult educational is given up totally.

    The Ministry of Education has of course some bodies to carry out and present research to policy-makers. Institute of Nonformal Education, Educational Research and Development Office, Research, Planning and Coordination Board etc. However, due to lack of sufficient financial resources these bodies support research and researchers by providing some insignificant services such as publication and distribution of the research questionnaire. In order to get above mentioned support, research proposal should be in the research agenda and be considered appropriate by the officials.

    Not only funding but also dissemination of the research results is crucial to improve the practice of adult education research. Dissemination of research findings includes organisation of scientific meetings, publication of proceeding, publication of articles in a scholarly journals etc. In existing situation of Turkey it is not easy to claim that adult education research findings are documented systematically and disseminated effectively among researchers, practitioners and policy-makers. Most countries, as argued by Hake (1995:160), have journals for the dissemination of the results and the number of such journals is clearly related to the degree of institutionalisation of research activities and the size of research community.

    In Turkey, although there are a few education journals, and it may be possible to disseminate adult education research findings into these journals, there isn‟t any journal, association and society dedicated to adult education. In addition, most of the graduate thesis are not published as a book or article. They are forgotten on the library shelf.

    Nonformal Education Institute of the Ministry of National Education has been established in 1977 to play co-ordination, co-operation and research role. However, the Institute is too far to play above mentioned mission which is summarised as follows: funding research ; facilitating dissemination of research findings by organising conferences and journals; developing co-ordination and co-operation among the relevant actors; enabling the constitute research priorities and agendas etc.

    Due to the above pessimistic paint, there is of course some hopeful developments: Turkish Academy of Sciences has established in 1995, and initiated some support projects. Some of them are; (1) to support production of a scholarly and refereed

    journals, (2) to support academics and researchers to participate national as well as international conferences, (3) to support academics and researchers to publicises

    articles and research results in the international journals.

4. Issues, Trends and Future Aspects

    Adult education research in Turkey is very scarce, unsystematically designed, methodologically weak and under pressure of so-called positivist, descriptive and quantitative research understandings. It is not wrong to say that little attention is devoted to adult education research, like social sciences and other disciplines of

    educational sciences in Turkey. Lack of funding, planning, co-ordination, co-operation and disciplinary dialogue for adult education research are important issues. Inadequacy of adult educational databases and the presence of a little connection between the research findings and the decision-making are the other constraints.

    It is expected to a long term and clear research agenda which studies the relevance of adult education with illiteracy and basic education of adults, adult learning, migration, militarism, economic crises and gender. Adult education researches in Turkey has not focused on these types of critical and strategic scopes. One of the most important reasons of the lack of concern above mentioned research topics is the existence of inappropriate methodological approaches in the field of adult education. It is almost impossible to work on above mentioned topics by using so-called positivist and quantitative research approaches. At this point, to catch up and articulate methodological turn in the world is pivotal.

    It is clear that there is vital need for a co-ordinating agency and mechanisms which compile systematically and review critically existing adult education research in order to identify priorities for the future research agenda in Turkey. On the one hand, adult education researches in an interdisciplinary approach should be connected with the social, economic, cultural and educational priorities. On the other hand, adult education research should connect with the most recent European research perspectives of life history research and biographic narratives in order to realise great methodological turn. By doing this, first, knowledge on some critical subjects such as how Turkish people learn and how feminist pedagogy works, would be available. Second, understanding of the importance and recognition of adult education as an academic discipline would be easier and wider.

    It should be borne in mind that both national as well as international and interdisciplinary rather than intradisciplinary dialogue are paramount importance in the sense of development and acceptance of adult education as a respectful academic discipline. It is also necessary to progress in the direction of professionalisation of adult education and better research design connecting internationally acknowledged research perspectives of qualitative and biographic research methods.


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