Digital Transformation Starts at Preschool
Oct 19, 2016

It would be tenable to say that entrepreneurship and innovation, two key concepts considered to form the basis of world economy, are issues of cultures and systems. Cultivating an open-minded and innovative generation capable of R&D oriented thinking is indispensable for a long-lived, sustainable, and competitive economy. With the current picture of globalization, which gained momentum in the 90s, and the digital turn appearing in the 2000s, the terms Industry 4.0, entrepreneurship and knowledge economy have come to shape our future.

Inevitably, one asks the question of what Turkey needs to do in the face of these developments. What needs to be done in order to make best use of the brilliant minds and to shape the future generations in accordance with the requirements of the new culture of our age? “Digital transformation starts at preschool school,” answers Serhat Ozeren, Chairperson of the Executive Board of ITU Development Foundation Schools.


“Our national education system needs long-lived changes”

According to Serhat Ozeren, innovative projects in Turkey are not long-lived and fall short of being sustainable because the idea of “entrepreneurship” cannot be internalized as a “culture”. Ozeren states that building such cultural transformation needs to be initiated during preschool years and it is consolidated during higher education period. Ozeren criticizes the exam-oriented education system, arguing that entrepreneurial ideas cannot flourish and transition to knowledge economy would not be possible in an exam-oriented system. Ozeren thinks that an important practice today is the code courses given to young learners in certain developed countries a few hours per week, but he believes that Turkey needs more than that. Turkey, according to Ozeren, needs to make overarching changes in the way it conceptualizes “culture of entrepreneurship.”

According to Ozeren, a common parental misconception is thinking that “getting to know the digital world” consists in children’s being able to use a mobile phone or the devices that parents themselves cannot use skillfully. Ozeren states that digital transformation and knowledge economy education will not only catalyze Turkey’s digital transformation and its preparation process for Industry 4.0, but it will also be of particular asset to the career development of new generations. He adds that Turkey has the teacher resources to provide such education programs and further development of teachers to enable them to take part in these programs would be possible by bringing together information technologies teachers around this goal.

Ozeren: “Absolute value is always more than 0”

Ozeren states that if Turkey wants to realize digital transformation and raise a youth who can keep up with and take advantage of the entrepreneurial and digital world, the country’s national education strategy should concentrate on educating multi-talented people. He emphasizes the need for individuals skilled in arts and sports, pointing to the inadequacy of focusing solely on academic-scientific skills. Therefore, according to Ozeren, high school and university placement exam criteria should be revisited in line with this need.

Ozeren concludes his speech by saying: “I am so sad to see many children skilled in sports quitting due to university exam preparation concerns. Turkish schools are stifled with serious infrastructural deficiencies in terms of arts and sports education. Fuelling change from our schools would be a crucial gain for us. Tutya Yılmaz, our student at Ekrem Elginkan High School of ITU Development Foundation Schools, has achieved what I have stressed as lacking when she was only 17. She represented Turkey in 2016 Rio Olympics and gave us hopes in this direction with her artistic gymnastics performance. Tutya also displays high academic performance. We will see many more similar examples as schools support students like Tutya. She is the epitome of what young generations can achieve when they are not left alone. As long as we carry out the appropriate feasibility work, we will see that every absolute value is more than zero.”